‘We were annoyed people just ruled us out’ - Declan Lynch says best team won as Antrim miss chance to silence pundits

Experienced Saffron star says focus turns to winning Tailteann Cup after loss to Down

Declan Lynch became a father for the first time during the week and had cause for a double-celebration as he helped Antrim secure their Division Three status with a win over Wicklow on Sunday. Picture: Colm Lenaghan
Declan Lynch says Antrim will turn their attention to winning the Tailteann Cup after their loss to Down. Picture: Colm Lenaghan

ANTRIM’S players were annoyed at being written off by all-and-sundry before last Saturday’s Ulster Championship quarter-final against Down.

In the end, the pundits were proved right - the Mournemen won by four points - but the Saffrons pushed Conor Laverty’s side all the way and left the Pairc Esler pitch regretting the chances they didn’t take.

That’s football of course and Antrim wing-back Declan Lynch offered no excuses after the 0-13 to 0-9 loss in Newry.

“We missed chances but, if we’re going to call a spade a spade, this best team won,” said the Lamh Dhearg defender.

“We’re disappointed. We could have won it and in the second half, going down the stretch we had opportunities but they just crept narrowly wide. On another day they might have went over and it would have been a different game but we probably weren’t brave enough in the first half, we probably sat in a bit too much.

“But that’s the way it goes. If we had opened up a bit we might have conceded a couple of goals. It’s Catch-22 and we just have to learn from it – this is a young squad, a new squad and we have to learn and go a step further than last year and have a real rattle at the Tailteann Cup now.

“We got to the semi-final last year and we could have beaten Meath who went on to beat Down and win it so… why not?”

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Odhran Murdock scored one and created two more as Down saw off determined Antrim. Picture: Seamus Loughran (seamus loughran)

But Lynch stressed that Antrim hadn’t come to Newry for an Ulster Championship ‘shot to nothing’ with their minds on the Tailteann competition. He said the Saffrons were determined to prove the pundits wrong and their sole focus in training was beating Down and moving on to an Ulster semi-final.

“We were annoyed and frustrated that people just ruled us out right away against Down,” he said.

“They got promoted this year and, like I say, the best team won but our focus was on winning here, not on the Tailteann Cup.

“There was no talk about Tailteann Cup before this game and Andy (McEntee) wouldn’t allow that to happen.

“We haven’t even looked at when the Tailteann fixtures are out so now we’ll dust ourselves down, have a couple of days off, regroup and hopefully get some bodies back to beef-out the panel and make it more competitive moving forward.”

Last year’s captain Peter Healy hasn’t kicked a ball since the Meath semi-final while Aghagallon full-forward Ruairi McCann was ruled out after undergoing an operation on his appendix.

“Peter hasn’t had any luck and Ruairi is a massive miss for us,” said Lynch.

“He’s a focal point for us and he’d be a focal point for any team in Ulster but we believe in our panel. Andy hasn’t let us talk about injuries because it would be very easy to if we wanted to with the length of the list we have.

“It’s just ‘next man up’ for us and that’s the way it’ll be for the rest of the year.”