GAA Football

Donnelly backs Ballinascreen attack to stand up to Slaughtneil challenge

Benny Heron is a key player for Ballinascreen, but has been well marshalled by Brendan Rogers in recent meetings with Slaughtneil. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

M&L Contracts Derry SFC final: Slaughtneil v Ballinascreen (Sunday, 3.30pm, Celtic Park)

BALLINASCREEN manager Liam Donnelly has backed his attack to stand up and be counted against the renowned shackles of the Slaughtneil defence.

The sides meet in the Derry SFC decider on Sunday, with ‘Screen looking to bridge a gap back to 1973 since their last senior football success.

In Slaughtneil they will meet a formidable foe, one that is chasing their own history. The Emmet’s could become only the second team ever to win four straight Oak Leaf titles, matching Bellaghy’s achievement between 1958 and 1961.

But they are also a familiar foe, with the sides having clashed a number of times in recent seasons, and traditionally with very little to separate them in the end.

One concern for the St Colm’s side is how well Slaughtneil have shut down their two key forwards in recent meetings.

Brendan Rogers will pick up their talisman Benny Heron, while Karl McKaigue will renew acquaintances with ex-Donaghmore man Shane Mulgrew. Slaughtneil’s joy in those two individual battles have been key to their wins over ‘Screen but Donnelly has challenged his attack as a unit to take the bull by the horns.

“We expect a certain standard of those boys and to have an influence on the game. They know themselves they’re going to get special attention from any defender, not only Brendan Rogers or Karl McKaigue.

“That’s the secret of any good forward, they have to find a way of influencing the game in some way, be it on the scoreboard or setting up scores for other players.

“Slaughtneil don’t care who gets the scores as long as they get them, and we have to be the same. We need a bigger spread of scorers around the team so hopefully somebody else can step up to the mark on Sunday, that if these fellas are man-marked we can get enough scores to get us over the line.”

While they almost fell victim to a semi-final shock against Greenlough, Ballinascreen’s quarter-final win was the most notable result of the championship to date.

They beat a Coleraine side that had won the league and had no representatives on the county team this year as they openly chased a second John McLaughlin Cup.

A three-goal salvo in the first half opened an unbridgeable chasm between the sides and a start of similar proportions would go a long way towards beating Mickey Moran’s masters of possession.

Donnelly, who feels that Slaughtneil would be coming into this as All-Ireland club champions had it not been for the dismissal of Padraig Cassidy during their St Patrick’s Day decider against Dr Crokes, knows they will have to try and disrupt the champions’ stride.

“It’s a huge task for any team. No team has been able to disrupt the flow of Slaughtneil in three years, they’re going for four-in-a-row which is no mean feat, so we certainly have a mammoth task on our hands.

“Slaughtneil are a very competent team obviously and Mickey Moran and John Joe [Kearney] are astute men. They play a nice brand of football.

“You don’t get to an All-Ireland club final by being lucky. I wouldn’t call them defensive – they’re like every team, they want to get a start on you and play from the front.

“We’re no different, we want to get a start but that’s not always possible. Sometimes you have to come from behind to win games and Slaughtneil have done that in the past.

“They don’t get ahead of you and sit back – Mickey Moran has described them manys a time as what they are, very patient.

“That’s the sign of a good team and we’ll have to try and come up with something that will disrupt them.”

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