Derry will relish chance to test themselves against the best says Mark Lynch
DERRY will be relish the opportunity to measure themselves against the best counties in Ireland, says Mark Lynch, and any team that underestimates Rory Gallagher’s Ulster champions will live to regret it.
When Lynch called time on his 15-season career in the red and white jersey in 2018 Derry were at a desperately low ebb. Relegated to Division Four, they were Championship alsorans but Gallagher’s appointment as manager was the catalyst for a sustained resurgence that has already yielded the Ulster title after a gap of 24 years.
Lynch was in the stand at Clones, and on the pitch afterwards, celebrating Derry’s win over Donegal with friends, family and former team-mates.
“I can hardly put into words the way I felt when the final whistle went,” said the Banagher clubman.
“The joy that we all had for all the boys and obviously I have an affiliation with some of the boys that I played with – Chrissy McKaigue, Benny Heron, Brendan Rogers…
“They deserved that (an Ulster medal) for the effort they’ve put in and the effort they’ve put in over the last few years. To come from nowhere and be Ulster champions… It’s such a success story, it’s a massive, massive achievement and the good thing about it is they have an age group there that is quite young and they’ve had a taste of success early so you’d hope that Derry could be doing this for a number of years to come.
“It’s a massive buzz for the county and you don’t really see that when you’re part of the playing group. I didn’t have too many successes when I was playing but you don’t really see the impact that success has on the fans. It’s huge what the boys have done this year and huge credit goes to the players and Rory and the management team.”
Derry will face Colm Collins’ Clare in Saturday’s second All-Ireland quarter-final. Derry travelled to Ennis to take on the Bannermen in Division Two this year and goals from Heron and Gareth McKinless paved the way for a 2-13 to 0-10 win that took the Oak Leafers to the brink of promotion. They didn’t quite make it but their League form and subsequent Ulster title makes them a force to be reckoned with as the Championship approaches its boiling point.
“Any team that underestimates them will be in trouble,” said Lynch.
“I think there’s a strong mentality and a bond between the players, nevermind the talent and athleticism within the panel. They are very, very strong and they’ll take it a game at a time now.
“They wanted to compete with the top teams in Ulster and they’re Ulster champions now so now they will want to see where they’re at when they’re competing against the top teams in the All-Ireland series.
“That’s the challenge they have but they’ll love that challenge, they’ll relish it. You have men there that have been to the top in the club scene – the Slaughtneil men have played at that level for a long, long time.
“I really hope they go the distance. I’m sure it’ll be ‘game at a time’ within the camp but it’s very exciting times for Derry supporters.”