where are they now?
(Former Ballinderry and Derry footballer)
BALLINDERRY'S progress to an All-Ireland club football semi-final meeting with Leinster champions St Vincent's doesn't surprise Declan Bateson. "I have two brothers, Daniel, a defender, and James, a forward, who are on the panel, but can't get into the team. It's so hard to get in at the minute, that's how strong the panel is."
He acknowledges that St Vincent's "will be a huge test," but adds: "The four teams left each have a great pedigree, and will all fancy their chances of taking the title. But you can be sure that Ballinderry will have no fear of Vincent's."
His own career with Ballinderry started "at under 12 when I was eight, and we went on to win the county minor championship in 1989, and won the Ulster and All-Ireland title the same year, alongside Anthony Tohill, Gary Coleman, who was captain, Dermot Heaney and Eamonn Burns, and we all graduated to the senior title-winning panel of '93."
Club-wise, he made the senior team in '89, and bridged the gap between the great team of the 1980s, which won three in a row, and the next title-winning team of '95, which brought on young players like Enda Muldoon, who has won eight county titles so far.
The highlight of his career was the 2002 club final in Thurles when Ballinderry beat Nemo Rangers. He contributed a vital 1-1 in a great day for this small, rural parish of 350 houses.
He sees remarkable similarities between the present team's progress and that team of 2002. "They have played about 10 games to this point -- five in Derry, four in Ulster and the quarter-final in London -- and we did something similar. Also, we had a Ballinderry man as manager, Brian McIvor, and so do they in Martin McKinless."
Declan, who runs a pharmacy outside Dungiven, lives in Slaughtneil and his four girls are involved in camogie, while he expects his two-year-old son is destined to play football for the local club.
However, Declan says he will remain a Ballinderry man till he dies, and he was one of the 400 who travelled from the parish to London for the quarter-final. "It was definitely a case of 'last one out turn off the lights'," he recalls.
With 13 county titles, three Ulster and one All-Ireland, football is like a religion in Ballinderry, and the excitement is building in anticipation of their clash with St Vincent's in February.