Shamrocks complete league and championship double

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Ballinderry gained some measure of consolation for their Ulster club championship defeat to Errigal Ciaran with a convincing victory over Magherafelt in the Division One league final at Watty Graham Park, Glen.

There was just over a minute played when Magherafelt launched an attack down the left and Chrissy Spiers swung the ball into the goalmouth.

Emmett McGuckin seemed to get the merest of touches as it dropped and that caught keeper Mark McGeehan stranded off his line and he could only help the ball to the net off his fingertips.

It was just the start that Gary Coleman would have wanted against a Ballinderry side playing their third game in eight days.

Fielding a starting team that was short six players on the team that started the Ulster championship game against Errigal Ciaran it would not have been the start manager Martin McKinless would have wanted, especially with players of limited senior playing experience like Mark McGeehan, Darren Lawn and Ciaran Hagan in defence against a dangerous Rossas attack spearheaded by McGuckin.

As Magherafelt cruised to a 1-04 to 0-03 lead by the 16th minute, even with a strong breeze at their backs, Ballinderry must have feared the pacy Magherafelt front six would inflict more pain on a Ballinderry side that was struggling.

But, as would have been expected, the Shamrocks dug in to keep the scoreboard unmoved for the next 10 minutes, and then scored a point from a Collie Devlin free to narrow the gap.

However Chrissy Spiers landed two magnificent points from 50m to take a 1-06 to 0-04 advantage and at that juncture Rossas had a lead that would have given them real hope of lifting some silverware.

The game went pear-shaped for Magherafelt, in a spell either side of half time.

Ballinderry put together a string of passes in the final minute of the first half before Gareth McKinless left Magherafelt keeper Barry Gillis rooted to the goal line as he coolly sold him a little ‘dummy’ before kicking the ball to the net, leaving the score 1-06 to 1-04 at half time.

Within four minutes of the restart Raymond Wilkinson and Ryan Bell had tied the game, and although neither side scored for 12 minutes, you could see that Ballinderry had raised their game.

When it was put to Ballinderry manager Martin McKinless that his side had been under the cosh for much of the first half he retorted, “That has been the trend of our games all year, giving teams a kick-start but then, when we came up against the toughness, our form started to kick in and we started to play a bit of football.

“We gave the defence a bit of a rollicking at half time but they responded and when a team does that - goes out and responds to you - it is a great feeling. It shows that they have listened.”

Just after the three-quarter mark, with his side having taken the lead through a Daniel McKinless point, McKinless made three changes with experienced players Aaron Devlin, Martin Harney and James Conway replacing Darren McGeehan, Conleith Gilligan and Kevin ‘Moss’ McGuckin respectively and all three played a part as the Shamrocks suffocated the Rossas attack and slowly built a winning lead.

With Michael McIver and James Bateson then arriving on the field, Ballinderry had emptied their bench and those fresh legs all played their part in the Shamrock’s victory.

Two minutes from full time, after Aaron Devlin had scored his second point of the half, came the icing on Ballinderry’s victory cake when Devlin added to Gillis’ discomfort at sending his kick-out straight to Shamrock’s ace finisher by lobbing the ball over the keeper who was stranded off his line and it dropped into the back of the net!

In the last minute Ballinderry captain Enda Muldoon picked up a second yellow card and then the red one, when fouling a Magherafelt player as he surged through the middle.

It didn’t matter, minutes later he accepted the league trophy and then spoke directly to his colleagues and management team, “I would like to thank the management team and this bunch of players.

“After last weekend, when we lost to Errigal Ciaran, it was tough to come out and play again on Wednesday night, on a wet night with a heavy pitch, when players could have been doing other things but the players came out against Slaughtneil and showed their character in that game.

“Then again today they showed what this team is made of. A lot of people have been writing us off all year but I think that is what has made these boys stronger, more determined to come out and win.

“I want to thank the management team and players. It has been a nice end to the season, county champions, league champions and reserve championship winners.”