GAA Football

Retiring Mark Lynch owes Derry nothing insists team-mate and former Oak Leaf captain Gerard O'Kane

Mark Lynch, always a leader throughout his Derry career, has decided to call time on his county career after 13 seasons. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

ALL-IRELAND minor glory in 2002, MacRory success the following year and several seasons side by side in the red and white of Derry, few people are better placed to talk about Mark Lynch than Gerard O’Kane.

The Glenullin man was Oak Leaf captain 16 summers ago as a side that also contained Lynch – as well as several future county stars such as Patsy Bradley and Barry McGoldrick - conquered all before them en route to lifting the Tom Markham Cup.

They soldiered alongside side each other in county colours until O’Kane announced his retirement two years ago, and Banagher ace Lynch has now followed suit, bringing the curtain down on his Derry career at the age of 32.

“I would say I played with Lynch more than anybody outside of my own club – because of [St Patrick’s] Maghera, we always doubled up on two or three teams every year,” said O’Kane.

“We made our Ulster Championship debut on the same day [v Monaghan in 2005], and I mind sitting in the changing room beside him saying ‘we’ve come a long way from first year, second year in Maghera playing Dalton Cup’.

“At 16, he was one of the biggest on our minor team – he was like a man-boy in the team that won the All-Ireland – and he just had that all round ability. You could play him anywhere.

“Under Brian McIver I would’ve played six and he played the sweeper role basically - he could play that role because he could pick up the ball and break out of defence. Playing MacRory in fifth year, he was full-back and I was centre-half, then you had Ruairi Convery in midfield and ‘Skinner’ [Eoin Bradley] at corner-forward.

“He’s a strong tackler, has a physical presence so he had the ability to play most positions on the field, and he’s had a great career. Mark owes Derry absolutely nothing.”

And, in terms of the players O’Kane has lined out alongside, he places Lynch right up there.

“It’s difficult to compare players because you’re looking at different positions,” he continued.

“Anyone that’s ever asked me, the first name that comes off my lips is Paddy [Bradley] - my own club man - then Enda Muldoon, but Mark Lynch is definitely in the top bracket of boys I’ve played with.”

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