Errigal had threatened to run away with it before the Derry men battled back to go level at the death. It then appeared theirs for the taking, but it was the youthful Tyrone champions who had the composure to see it out in gripping 14-a-side finale.
There were subplots too, with Errigal Ciaran manager Ronan McGuckian watching from the terrace, unwilling to continue his involvement against his home club. In his absence, Tommy McDermott stepped up from the role of team trainer, and took the new role in his stride.
“I didn’t mind that, because when you look over at that circle of fellows, you can see a lot of talent. You can see a lot of desire and you can see a lot of belief,” said McDermott.
“There are serious leaders within the camp, and not alone is it a new role for me over this last two weeks, but this is a new role for a lot of those boys, and they showed a lot of commitment and honesty,” said McDermott.
Bryan Horisk got them going with a long-range effort, and then Tommy Canavan got in on the act by hitting two points, one from a free. Caolan Tierney was also on target, with Ballinderry’s sole point in that spell coming from Conleith Gilligan.
But the south Derry men suddenly burst into life, hitting three points in as many minutes to go level. Colin Devlin, the game’s outstanding attacker, steered over two gems, one from an almost impossible angle, with Gilligan claiming his second.
In the closing stages of the half, Enda Muldoon and James Conway began to get the better of the McGinley brothers, Enda and Cormac at midfield, and Devlin’s third score brought the Shamrocks level again.
It was 0-5 each at the break, but Errigal made an explosive start to the second half, hitting five points in the opening five minutes, including two each for Canavan and Horisk.
The outlook worsened for Ballinderry when corner-back Conor Wilkinson picked up a second booking, but Errigal were also reduced to 14 men when corner-forward Damien McDermott received a straight red card.
It was the Derry champions who responded more positively to the dismissals, with substitutes Kevin ‘Moss’ McGuckin, Dermot McGuckin and Michael McIver making big contributions to the fightback which saw them go level.
Full-back Kevin McGuckin launched a monster point, Muldoon converted a ’45, Dermot McGuckin swept over two scores and it was Devlin who levelled in the 59th minute.
But Canavan kept his cool to slot over a 35-metre free deep into injury-time for the winner.
Errigal Ciaran scorers: T Canavan 0-5 (3f), B Horisk 0-3, C Tierney, Ciaran McGinley, D Harte 0-1 each.
Ballinderry scorers: C Devlin 0-4, C Gilligan, D McGuckin 0-2 each, K McGuckin, E Muldoon (’45) 0-1 each.
ERRIGAL CIARAN: J Devine, A McCrory, M McCrory, C Quinn, S Tierney, P Harte, D Harte, Cormac McGinley, E McGinley, Ciaran McGinley, T Canavan, C Tierney, D McDermott, B Horisk, R McCrory.
Subs: D Canavan for C Tierney (53), B Mullin for M McCrory (59)
BALLINDERRY: M Conlan; C Wilkinson, K McGuckin, D Bell, R Wilson, C Nevin, G McKinless, E Muldoon, J Conway, A Devlin, R Wilkinson, C Gilligan, C Devlin, R Bell, M Harney.
Subs: K ‘Moss’ McGuckin for Harney (41), D McGuckin for Conway (41), M McIver for D Bell (49), D Conway for A Devlin (53).
Referee: C Branagan (Down).