to come

22/09/2015: Ballinascreen's Dermot McBride with Christopher Bradley of Slaughtneil during Tuesday nights Derry SFC quarter final match played at Owenbeg. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
By Seamus Mullan

M&L Contracts Derry Senior Football Championship final:

Robert Emmet's, Slaughtneil v St Colm's, Ballinascreen (Sunday, Celtic Park, 3.30pm)

Slaughtneil will be seeking a record-equalling four-in-a-row of Derry SFC titles tomorrow when they meet a Ballinascreen side chasing the club's first John McLaughlin Cup since 1973.

The only team to win four successive county senior titles is Bellaghy between1958 and 1961.

Three years ago, Ballinderry were within a minute of equalling the Bellaghy feat but an injury-time Gerald Bradley goal set Slaughtneil on their championship run.

St Colm's, meanwhile, have been knocking at the door for a long time but it has yet to open.

They will feel that they have the power all over the field to upset the odds. Their manager Liam Donnelly from Trillick in Tyrone is one of the best in the business.

Slaughtneil have the winning habit and seem to be able to get over the line by doing just enough to win.

The reigning Ulster champions are past masters at defending a lead by keeping possession and simply wearing the opposition down.

Ballinascreen have a number of top-class players who will be key in their quest for senior championship honours.

One of them is Benny Heron and he is likely to be picked up by fellow county man Chrissy McKaigue, a player who can mark tight but still get forward for scores.

His brother Karl may be tasked with keeping tabs on Shane Mulgrew, Ballinascreen's top-scorer.

Mulgrew has been pivotal in their march to the final. Carlus McWilliams is one of those players who is equally at home in defence or attack. He has pace to burn and will be very hard to tie down. It is likely that young Paul McNeill could be asked to track him.

Ballinascreen, on the other hand, will want to keep a watchful eye on Christopher Bradley. He is fast, skilful and can score with either foot. Their chief man-maker is the powerful Dermot McBride.

Ballinascreen management will also be warning their players to avoid giving away frees. Paul Bradley is one of the more experienced players on the Slaughtneil team and is deadly accurate from placed balls, as well as being an excellent playmaker.

Ballinascreen may swamp the middle of the field with their big men like Paul Burns, Aaron Kelly, Philip Bradley and Brendan Herron to try and curb the influence of Slaughtneil's powerful Patsy Bradley and the very impressive Padraig Cassidy.

They will hope to leave space for Heron, Mulgrew and Barry Grant to get the vital scores.

Ballinascreen need to get a foothold at midfield to have the chance of a shock. They must also go for an early lead and make Slaughtneil play catch-up. However, given the solidity of the champions' defence and the excellence of their goalkeeper Antoin McMullan, that is easier said than done.

Ballinascreen beat Bellaghy 2-15 to 2-8 in the first round. They were not expected to get past Coleraine a side tipped as the one best equipped to stop Slaughtneil. Three goals in the first 14 minutes ruined the Coleraine dream as they were reduced to 14 men and lost by 3-6 to 0-10.

In the semi-final, they had their work cut out to beat surprise packets Greenlough by 0-11 to 0-9 in a game in which they shot 13 wides.

Slaughtneil got a stiff enough test against neighbours Swatragh for the first 45 minutes before stepping on the gas to win 2-14 to 1-11.

Next up was old foes Ballinderry, whose lack of discipline made it easier for the champions. Slaughtneil won comfortably enough, 1-9 to 0-8, without extending themselves.

In the semi-final, they proved too strong for a young Glen team, winning 0-13 to 0-6.

Looking at the statistics, Ballinascreen cannot be discounted. In their three games, they

have scored 5-32 and conceded 2-25. Slaughtneil have scored

3-36 and conceded 1-25. Their average winning margin is almost the same.

Ballinascreen proved against Coleraine that they can compete with the best.

Slaughtneil may be the bookies' favourites but they will have to be at their best to edge a very talented and dangerous Ballinascreen.

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