Kevin Lynch's boss Geoffrey McGonigle taking nothing for granted ahead of Ballinascreen semi-final showdown
Leadon Timber Derry SHC semi-finals
KEVIN Lynch’s did all that was asked of them to reach the last four of the Derry Senior Hurling Championship – but boss Geoffrey McGonigle knows the real stuff starts today when they take on Ballinascreen in Lavey (5.30pm).
Victories over Swatragh, Banagher and Eoghan Rua saw them comfortably top Group B to set up a repeat of last year’s semi-final, which the Lynch’s won before losing out to Slaughtneil in the decider.
That made it seven titles in-a-row for the Emmet’s, surpassing the Dungiven side’s six-in-a-row from 1972-77.
However, with Kevin Hinphey following famous father Liam sr into management and guiding the Kevin Lynch’s to back-to-back Ulster minor titles, a new wave of talent is on the way through, with Sean and Conor Kelly, Richie and John Mullan, Odhrán McKeever and Tiarnán McHugh all making their presence felt in recent years.
McGonigle admits Slaughtneil – who face parish rivals Swatragh in the other semi-final tomorrow (3.30pm, Ballinascreen) – have “set the standard” in Derry and says it is up to the rest of the chasing pack to close the gap.
“It’s up to other teams to change the way they play, you have got get up to their level and we’re trying to get there,” said the former Derry dual star, whose backroom team includes former Dunloy goalkeeper Shane Elliott, Ryan O'Neill and Ronan McCloskey.
“It’s not easy because they’re an exceptional side and teams like us Lavey, Ballinascreen, Swatragh, Banagher, we’re all coming second best to them.
“We’re still young enough but we’re a work in progress. We’re trying to get there.”
And while others around the county may already be talking about a renewal of the Lynch’s-Slaughtneil rivalry in this year’s final, McGonigle is taking nothing for granted ahead of today’s showdown with Ballinascreen.
“Everybody’s saying about us and Slaughtneil in a final but you have to get to the final before you can start talking about it.
“You’re writing off other teams at your peril and we have the utmost respect for ’Screen. In the semi-final last year they gave us plenty of bother, they’ll be thinking they could’ve won that match, so we have to be prepared.”
Ballinascreen summoned an impressive second half performance against Lavey to seal their spot in today’s semi, having trailed by nine leading up to half-time, Conor McSorley’s late goal helping them across the line.
Few are holding out much hope of Swatragh stopping the Slaughtneil express train tomorrow, meanwhile, as Michael McShane’s reigning Ulster champions step up their bid for an eighth county title on the trot.
The Ballycastle man was able to make several changes for the final Group One game against Na Magha after coasting through their opening two outings, with towering forward Jerome McGuigan the only regular starter to line out.
Even without man-marker Karl McKaigue, whose season was cruelly ended by a ruptured Achilles tendon, Slaughtneil still look to be in a league of their own at the minute and will take some stopping.
Swatragh qualified for the semi-finals on scoring difference, with draws against Banagher and Eoghan Rua ultimately proving enough to see them progress and have a huge task on their hands.