Friday, 30 September 2011

Lynch's overwhelming favourites in Derry

Ex-Lavey manager Tom Magill

When I was growing up (and I’m not that old), I always remember Lavey being the force in hurling. During the 90s they were the dominant team with everyone else playing catch-up. From 1990 to 1999 Lavey won seven titles, with Kevin Lynch’s (1996, 1998) and Slaughtneil (1993) taking the Fr Collins Cup on the other occasions.

When I think of those teams, the names of note included Ollie Collins, Mickey Collins, Seamus Downey, Henry Downey and Brian McCormick. The list goes on, with manager Tom Magill (right) central to much of their success. During that time Lavey won the football championship three times, including the double in 1990 and 1992. Not to mention an All-Ireland Club title in 1991. This really was a golden age in Lavey.

They played hurling with the minimum of fuss and made it look easy. I remember being at a semi final in Glenullin, probably around 1995 or 1996. Slaughtneil were playing Lavey. 

The Erin’s Own men kept tapping over points and we registered a goal to counteract it. Still Lavey raised white flag after white flag. We were keeping them from scoring goals, so were well in the game. Or were we? 

The game was not yet over, but I remember looking up at the scoreboard (Glenullin had an electric one before anyone else) and it was Slaughtneil 1-5 Lavey 0-21. Lavey had pulled away, they were masters at it.

This Saturday, Lavey will be meeting Kevin Lynch’s in the final. Despite being holders of the Fr Collins Cup, they are rank outsiders. As the pundits below demonstrate, the tide has changed in Derry Hurling. Slaughtneil may be the up and coming force at underage, but in the senior ranks, Kevin Lynch’s are very much the team to beat.

Of the last ten titles, the Dungiven men had landed six, Lavey have three with Banagher winning in 2005. As Tom Magill was the driving force behind Lavey in the 90s, the Kevin Lynch’s story has had Liam Hinphey at the helm. On Sunday their manager will be one of Hinphey’s troops from that era, former corner back Davy ‘Harry’ McCloskey. In hurling circles, you don’t need the McCloskey bit. Everyone knows who Davy Harry is.

This week I have contacted a few people who have watched (and played in) various championship games this year. They gave their verdict on the destination of the cup this weekend. 

From the predictions, it is clear cut, Kevin Lynch’s 7, Lavey 2. The cup will head over the Foyle Bridge, through Drumahoe, past the turn for Claudy, down through Foreglen, following past the gates for Owenbeg and into Dungiven for it’s final stop at ‘The Arcade’, the spiritual home of Kevin Lynch’s.

What would Tom Magill think of this? Will Ryan Cushnahan and Lavey have a plan to put a different slant on it? Will they make sure the cup heads down the Glenshane pass, through Maghera and back into Gulladuff?

Here is what the pundits had to say about this weekend’s county final.

Mickey Kirkpatrick (Swatragh) - In my opinion I can’t really look past Kevin Lynch’s, especially after last years defeat they will be gunning to make amends for that. Players like Mark Craig, Paddy Kelly and the Hinpheys will be very hard to stop. 

Lavey will need to look to the likes of Paddy Henry, the Dodds brothers and young O’Boyle [Cailean] to have a huge impact if they are to stop the Lynch’s. Although my heart says Lavey my head says Kevin Lynch’s. In what will be a tough and physical game I fancy the Lynch’s. Prediction: Kevin Lynch’s by 5.

Mary K Burke (Derry Post) - It's a tough one to call. Looking at the two semi finals Kevin Lynch's seemed the stronger of the two sides, but Lavey won't want to give up the Fr. Collin's trophy without a fight. Dungiven's run in the football may have distracted from the Lynch's preparations, whereas Lavey have had a clearer run in. Prediction: Kevin Lynch's by two.

Donal Leahy (Ballinascreen) – My thoughts on the County Final are that Kevin Lynch's will not slip up like last year and I expect them to win by 3-5 points.

The main player will be Paddy Henry of Lavey. If he can play to potential then Lavey have a chance, but I expect Kevin Lynch's will be very well prepared to deal with him as a threat. Predication: Kevin Lynch’s

Danny McGrellis (Banagher) - It should be a very tight one to call Michael. Dungiven had poor enough games against ‘Screen and Swatragh, not going well as a team.

Lavey were not that convincing against us but showed much better against Slaughtneil and had a bigger win than most people would have thought.

I’d have to say that Dungiven will be most people’s favourites to win it but I’d go with Lavey. This is simply because they work better as a team than Dungiven do, plus they probably had the better teams to play to get to the final Prediction: Lavey by 3 points 

Cahair O’Kane (Derry Post) - Lavey have shown since last year that they look like Kevin Lynch’s first proper challengers for a long time. But last year's final has been stinging in the Lynch’s for twelve months and if Lavey are able to match their performance from last September’s decider come Saturday afternoon you could get a cracking final.

When they saw off Slaughtneil a few weeks ago, Lavey had Cailean O’Boyle at full-forward, and there was a tendency to hit him early, particularly in the first half. O’Boyle won everything in the air, particularly in the first 20 minutes, and although he finished with just a single point, his presence was a major factor in the good start which carried Lavey home. 

However, Kevin Lynch’s full-back Aaron McCloskey has been sound in the air throughout this championship and with Liam Óg Hinphey often dropping off to add extra protection; you wonder will Lavey have to move away from that style for this game.

Kevin Lynch's haven't scored a goal in a hurling championship game since 2009's final replay win over Slaughtneil and unless they break that duct, they will find this a seriously tough examination again. But they do have some superb hurlers and despite the fact that Lavey have Sam Dodds, Mickey Drumm and Paul McVeigh all back for the final, it's hard to see the Lynch's losing two in a row. Prediction: Kevin Lynch's

Ruairi Convery (Swatragh) - Tough one to call. Kevin Lynch's have been the strongest club team in Derry for quite a while now and they will not like the fact that Lavey dethroned them this year. They looked very strong against us in the semi finals and will be out to retain the title and aim for that elusive Ulster Title. They are physically strong and I'd expect them to start very strong. Prediction: Kevin Lynch's by 4

Oisin O’Doherty (Slaughtneil) - From what I have seen of both teams in this season’s championship it looks like it will be a close encounter. Lavey have a good blend of youth and experience in their line-up with Dungiven looking to the older boys to pull them through. 

As current champions Lavey will be hard to beat and have shown that in the two previous championship performances. In last years final Lavey got a great start and got goals to win the game. I can't see the Lynch’s letting that happen again. I'm backing Dungiven’s experience to pull them through by 3 or 4 points. Prediction: Kevin Lynch’s

Conor Quinn (Swatragh) - Going have to go for Kevin Lynch’s. Think Lavey caught them a bit cold last year and they won't make that mistake again. That said, Lavey are a championship outfit (regardless of league form) and the footballers among them especially should be super fit so I don't see a runaway victory for Kevin Lynch’s. Prediction: Neck on the line...Kevin Lynch’s by 4!

Karl McKaigue (Slaughtneil) – Lavey will probably enter the game as favourites, especially as they have been out of the football championship for months, meaning a number of key players have returned to the squad.

Kevin Lynch’s have a few injury problems but having Liam Óg Hinphey back will prove invaluable. 

Top class forwards including Paddy Henry’s free taking should be enough to make it back to back titles. Prediction: Lavey by 3


Once again, thanks to those who gave their verdict. Who do you think will win? Leave your comment below.

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