Muldoon provides masterclass
Ballinderry ... 0-9 Mayobridge ... 0-7: Enda Muldoon produced a masterful display to keep Ballinderry's defence of their All-Ireland crown intact in testing circumstances in Newry yesterday.
Muldoon played jack-of-all-trades in a resourceful Ballinderry performance. Lining out at full forward, he picked off two invaluable first-half points as his team-mates sought him out with early wind-assisted deliveries. But he was also there repeatedly to pluck the ball from under his own side's crossbar and he was the defensive anchor in a tense final quarter as the champions showed tremendous composure.
Muldoon's was not the only class act on show either; Micky Linden, aged 40, provided two points for Mayobridge while the fielding of his young team-mate Brendan Coulter was a thing for the 6,000 crowd to marvel at in the sapping conditions.
Despite the individual extravagances, this game was more about attrition than artistry. Referee Michael Hughes handed out 15 yellow cards at various stages of the game, including two to Mayobridge centre back Francie Poland, leaving the Down champions to battle through the final 10 minutes at a disadvantage.
Things had not looked promising for Ballinderry at half-time. Heroic defending by Brendan Grant and Seán Featherstone kept the Derrymen's half-time lead down to 0-5 to 0-4, and Mayobridge had the strong breeze to favour them in the second half.
But Muldoon eased a magnificent performance out of his team-mates, notably Niall McCusker and Declan Bateson, to keep the champions in front until the final whistle.
The game between Errigal Chiarain (Tyrone) and Crossmaglen (Armagh) was postponed because of a waterlogged Omagh pitch.
BALLINDERRY: M Conlon; K McGuckin, N McCusker, J Bell; P Wilson, R McGuckin, D Crosier; S Donnelly, J Conway; M Harney, C Gilligan, D Conway (0-2); D Bateson (0-2), E Muldoon (0-2), G Cassidy (0-3). Sub: A McGuckin for J Conway.
MAYOBRIDGE: S Featherstone; S McMahon, B Grant, G Barry; C O'Hare, F Poland, D Rooney; B Coulter (0-1), E Woods (0-1); J Quinn, M Walsh (0-3), A Barry; R Sexton, M Linden (0-2), R Coulter. Subs: M Barry for G Barry; N Sexton for A Barry; G McMahon for J Quinn.
Referee: M Hughes (Tyrone)