'We should have won Antrim championship - we will next time,' says Lamh Dhearg boss Martin Lynch
LAMH Dhearg Martin Lynch manager acknowledged his team should be planning an Ulster campaign - but vowed they will win their Antrim SFC Final replay against champions Cargin.
The Hannahstown men were denied victory at the last in their fourth championship game inside 15 days but Lynch insisted they would finish the job this Saturday and go on to face Fermanagh's Derrygonnelly in the provincial preliminary round:
“Now both teams are equal – I'm happy enough with that. They [Cargin] have to go and re-group the same as we have to go and re-group. The one thing about this team, we are full of character.
"The never-say-die attitude is something… I think the way they talked to each other, they are just so frustrated, they know they should have won the championship, but they didn't.
“But they will do it the next time.”
Just a minute before 6pm on Sunday, an hour after a gripping Antrim final had come to a dramatic close, veteran Lamh Dhearg forward Paddy Cunningham pressed send on a tweet: ‘We love a replay'.
The Hannahstown men had looked set to land a second county title in three years, only to be caught by a late Cargin charge, Michael McCann's goal giving the defending champions a lifeline, brother Tomas snatching a draw with the last kick of the game.
There was obvious frustration as the Red Hands got together for their post-match huddle but within minutes the players and management team were in good form back in the changing rooms, most heading out the door with smiles on their faces.
Lamh Dhearg are well used to this, of course.
Over the past fortnight, they have become accustomed to picking themselves back up and going again, having seen their semi-final against Portglenone go to a replay not once, but twice, with a free-kick competition thrown in for good measure.
At Corrigan Park they buried any concerns about tiredness from their previous exertions, and were the better team for most of Sunday's showpiece final.
They left without what they came for, what they thought they had, but boss Lynch adopted a philosophical approach to the latest replay on the Red Hand horizon as they get ready to do it all again at the same venue this Saturday (4pm).
“If you look over that match, the only thing wrong was they didn't manage it in the last 10 minutes. They had Cargin dead and buried,” he said.
“In fairness, they are county champions and that's why they are, because they can come back. But the frustrations, it was because they put them to the sword for 50, 55 minutes and then let them back into it for the last five.
“I think that's normal in sport, it's part of game-management. Those guys have been through the mill, the top team in Antrim for the last five, six years, fighting it out with St Gall's. We need to learn that too.”
And Lynch wasn't about to blame Lamh Dhearg's hectic recent schedule for their inability to close out the game on Sunday, adding: “If it was, and I can't concede that it was, our mistakes were the problem, not tired legs.
“Now both teams are equal – I'm happy enough with that. They have to go and regroup the same as we have to go and regroup. The one thing about this team, we are full of character.
“And the never-say-die attitude is something… I think the way they talked to each other, they are just so frustrated, they know they should have won the championship, but they didn't.
“But they will do it the next time.”
Saturday's replay with be Lamh Dhearg's seventh game of this championship campaign, as they bid to get back into the Ulster Club, with Fermanagh champions Derrygonnelly Harps eagerly awaiting the winners in the preliminary round.
And rather than bemoaning the number of games played, Lynch instead hopes there are plenty more to come.
“There will be a lot more,” he said with a smile.
“Hopefully, by the time we are finished with Ulster. Hopefully there will be a lot more.”