Killybegs are bidding for a second Ulster title in three seasons when they face Derry giants Ballinderry, in Faughanvale, Derry on Sunday afternoon. (Throw in 1.45 pm).
Two years ago Killybegs defeated Craigbane, also from Derry, to claim the Ulster Intermediate crown. This time around they have stepped up to the Senior League and on Sunday they go toe to toe with one of the top teams not alone in Derry, but in Ulster.
Killybegs, who are managed by Joe McBrearty, go into the final with a six game unbeaten run in the league behind them with five wins and one draw.
In what has been a very impressive start to the year, Killybegs have registered wins over Derry clubs Glenullin and Steelstown and Tyrone clubs Moortown and Dromore. They only point dropped was away to Castleblaney Faughs with that game ending in a 1-8 each draw.
However, they won the play-off with the Monaghan men to set the record straight and book their place in Sunday’s final.
Ballinderry go into the final with six straight wins under their belt and have chalked up a jaw dropping 8-85 in their wins over Donaghmore, Ardara, Ardboe, Glen and Magherafelt and Slaughtneil.
“I watched them on Sunday against Slaughtneil and they were very sharp and are a very good outfit and we know that we are up against it on Sunday,” said Joe McBrearty.
“They were very strong throughout the field; they had Niall McCusker who played full-back for Derry for years at full-forward and he had a fine game. And they had James Conway at midfield and James Bateson in the forward line, both who also played well. But they were strong all over the field and and have knocking on the door in the Ulster championship in recent years.
“But while we know we have a battle on our hands, we have been showing good form in the league. I know a lot of people in the club were a little worried when we entered the senior league, but I had confidence in the players and they have worked really hard and we have got a number of good results and go into the final on the back of an unbeaten run.”
Killybegs have been greatly boosted by the return of Brendan Boyle from playing his football in Tyrone, while they have also benefited from the return to full fitness of Matthew Smyth.
“To reach the final is real bonus territory for us. We used the league in preparation for the All- County League, but now that we are in the final we are determined to give a good account of ourselves.”
Daniel Breslin, recuperating following groin surgery at the turn of the year, and Christopher Murrin, who is recovering from an ankle injury, are the only absentees. Otherwise Joe McBrearty has a full hand to select from and the side is expected to be very much along the lines that overcame Castleblaney.
If Killybegs are to upset the odds and claim a second Ulster title, Smyth, Brendan Boyle, Conal Molloy, Mark Boyle, Paul McGinley, Shane Boyle, Jason Noctor and Shane Boyle are going to have to step up to the mark and play out of their skins against the Derry men.