Ryan Bell believes Ballinderry success can provide platform for Derry drive for Ulster title
Full forward optimistic Derry club’s win over Donegal’s Glenswilly can lift county
Ballinderry’s Ryan Bell battles with Glenswilly’s Eamon Ward during the Ulster senior club championship final at Healy Park, Co Tyrone. Photograph: Inpho
Ryan Bell is optimistic that Ballinderry’s resurgent season can facilitate a drive for the Ulster championship by Derry next year. The big full forward is a member of the senior county panel and believes that several of his team-mates have the capacity to make that grade as well.
“There are a few of them, especially young Gareth McKinless who was marking Michael Murphy and I thought he did well on him for a wee man,” he said of the Derry side’s win over Donegal champions Glenswilly on Sunday.
“He is a class man-marker. Conor Nevin, our captain, is a brilliant leader and he will be on it. Aaron Devlin came off the bench only because he had an injury and hopefully he will get on too . . . and maybe a few others like Darren Lawn will get the call up.
“I hope it can give the county a lift – it depends on how many men from this team gets into it and brings in that Ulster winning experience. We know we are going to be facing Donegal in the championship and that won’t be easy.”
Bell is just 19 years old. His timing has been perfect, coming into the Ballinderry senior side during a run of three Derry senior championships in succession as well as Sunday’s Ulster final win over Glenswilly.
For senior players like Conleith Gilligan, Kevin McGuckin and Enda Muldoon – named at centre-half forward but unable to start due to injuries – this return to provincial prominence has involved a 12-year wait.
After the final whistle, both sides reflected on the sheer difficulty of making it so far. Glenswilly manager Gary McDaid pointed out that winning the Donegal title is a “minefield” while the Ballinderry players went into the final well versed in how elusive these days can be.
“The manager [Martin McKinless] has said to us already that you don’t know the next time that you will be back. So we had to take this opportunity because God knows when we will be back.
“When you are young you probably think that you will get loads of opportunities but it is not just going to work like that.”
But given the rich seam of intercounty talent running through the Ballinderry side, there is no reason to believe they won’t. Gavin Devlin gave a master class in attacking play on Sunday while James Conway underlined his calibre as a top-flight midfielder.
Still, the most significant aspect of their performance against Glenswilly was the quality of their shot selection and finishing. “Yeah. We had been practicing that in training. You can’t run into defences or you will lose the ball. There were times when we did and they went up the field and scored. Long shooting was the key and lucky enough they went over the bar.”
So Ballinderry, then, will fly the Ulster flag as the year closes. The club is often associated with former Derry favourite Enda Muldoon. But for this campaign, they were forced to survive for long periods without the rangy forward.
“And a lot of people thought we mightn’t do too well because he was struggling with injuries. There are plenty of young guys coming through here but Enda, when he comes on; you can see the lift he gives the team. He is a special player.”
He may have a chance to show that again before Ballinderry’s season is over.