Devlin's touch of class helps Ballinderry survive storm
Ballinderry 1-10 Slaughtneil 0-10
Collie Devlin's superbly taken goal midway through the opening half proved the decisive score as Ballinderry retained their Derry football crown at Celtic Park.
That score helped the Shamrocks to a four-point half-time lead and although Slaughtneil closed the gap to a single point after Ballinderry half-back Raymond Wilson was sent off for two yellow cards, they were never able to restore parity.
Padraig Kelly kicked the opening score of the game for Slaughtneil, but Ryan Bell and Aaron Devlin replied for the Shamrocks. Kelly's second point levelled the scores at 0-2 apiece and points from James Conway for Ballinderry and Jim Kelly for Slaughtneil had the teams on level terms again, before the key moment of the match arrived in the 16th minute.
Enda Muldoon's superb long pass left Devlin with plenty to do, but he dummied on his right foot before spinning onto his left and firing the ball into the top corner.
Slaughtneil responded well to that setback and Danny McMullan and Jim Kelly, from a free, kept them in touch as Raymond Wilkinson pointed at the other end. However, the game seemed to swing decisively in Ballinderry's favour in first-half injury-time when Conleith Gilligan and then Aaron Devlin raised white flags to give them a 1-6 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
When Ballinderry kicked the opening two scores of the second half through Martin Harney and Ryan Bell to lead by six, they looked set to run away with game. But Slaughtneil refused to buckle and with Patsy Bradley taking a grip of midfield, they charged back into the contest.
Chrissy Bradley kicked three points on the spin and, with Ballinderry reduced to 14 men after Wilson's sending-off, a comeback looked on the cards.
Jim Kelly then fired over a free and Bradley kicked his fourth point of the half to bring the gap down to a single point at 0-10 to 1-8.
But with the game seemingly slipping away from them, Ballinderry's experienced heads steadied the ship.
Man of the Match Muldoon won a couple of crucial balls and county forward Gilligan nailed two late frees to see the Lough Shore side become the first team to retain the John McLaughlin Cup since they themselves did so in 2002.
SCORERS -- Ballinderry: C Devlin 1-0, Gilligan 0-3 (2f), A Devlin, R Bell 0-2 each, J Conway, R Wilkinson, M Harney 0-1 each. Slaughtneil: C Bradley 0-4 (3f), J Kelly 0-3 (2f), P Kelly 0-2, D McMullan 0-1.
Ballinderry -- M Conlan; C Wilkinson, K McGuckin, R Scott; R Wilson, C Nevin, G McKinless; E Muldoon, J Conway; A Devlin, R Wilkinson, C Gilligan; C Devlin, R Bell, M Harney. Subs: D McGuckin for McKinless (52), D Conway for Harney (58), Kevin (Moss) McGuckin for Colin Devlin 63.
Emmets Slaughtneil -- A McMullan; C Cassidy, C McKaigue, Francis McEldowney; Karl McKaigue, B McGuigan, D McMullan; P Bradley, P McGuigan; Fergal McEldowney, C Bradley, P Kelly; J Kelly, M Kelly, S McGuigan. Subs: S Kelly for P McGuigan (35), E McKaigue for S McGuigan (40), Paul Bradley for M Kelly (48) G Bradley for D McMullan.
Ref -- S Hamill (Ballerin).