By Kevin Herron
Lámh Dhearg coach Stephen Lynch believes it is a ‘privilege’ to be involved in the Ulster senior club football championship as the Hannahstown men begin their campaign with a quarter-final clash against Cavan Gaels.
The red hands travel to Breffni Park on Sunday (2.30 throw in) to partake in the Ulster senior football series for the first time since 1992 when Down kingpins Burren ended the Lámhs dreams of glory.
Since then it has been a long wait to return to the provincial stage, however that long wait was finally ended almost two weeks ago thanks to a hard fought win over St John’s to bridge a 46-year gap without senior championship success on the pitch.
Lynch admits the Lámhs are hungry to take on Cavan Gaels on Sunday and feels it is a privilege to be amongst the elite clubs in the senior football stage.
“The mood in the camp has been brilliant” reflected Lynch.
“We are looking forward to Sunday a lot, it is a privilege to be part of the Ulster series and be in amongst the nine greatest teams in the province. Hopefully we can go out on Sunday and prove we are worthy of being there”.
After defeating St John’s to lift the McNamee cup, the Lámhs revelled in their success and took advantage of an extra day to celebrate in the wake of hurricane Ophelia which battered the country. Lynch insisted that once the initial day after had passed it was back to business and focus on Cavan Gaels.
“The players deserved to lap up their success and enjoy themselves after the county final” acknowledges Lynch.
“We enjoyed a few days and took it all in, but then attention turned to Cavan Gaels and the Ulster Championship campaign. We are focused and looking to give a very good account of ourselves on Sunday against what will be a strong and experienced Cavan Gaels side”.
Unlike Lámh Dhearg, Cavan Gaels are no strangers to the Ulster series and having landed fourteen county titles in the process.
Their latest Cavan triumph saw them run out 0-13-0-08 winners over Castlerahan a week before Lámh Dhearg tackled St John’s in the Antrim decider.
Lynch feels that week’s advantage and the opportunity to see the Antrim county final might give Cavan Gael a slight edge but expects there to be changes to both personnel come Sunday.
“Just the way the fixture schedule pans out in Antrim, Cavan Gaels were afforded the opportunity to get down and have a look at the final” said Lynch.
“It probably gives Cavan Gaels a slight edge, but we will adjust our game as necessary. I would be surprised if either side set-up with the same personnel that started their respective county finals because there are different players suited to different occasions”.
Much of the pre-match talk has surrounded how Lámh Dhearg will deal with the threat posed by experienced campaigners Seanie Johnson and Michael Lyng as well as Martin Dunne and Niall Murray to name but a few amongst a squad littered with Cavan county experience.
Lynch believes it would it be foolish of the Lámhs to ignore that threat, but feels the Hannahstown men have their own experienced campaigners that could cause the hosts a few headaches.
“It would be foolish to ignore the threat that Cavan Gaels possess” reflected Lynch.
“They have Seanie Johnson and Michael Lyng who are two fantastic footballers that are renowned throughout Ireland. Michael Dunne and Niall Murray are also there and there are no doubt a few youngsters who have represented Cavan in their successful U-21 teams of recent years”.
“We have our own county experience within the squad in Declan [Lynch], Domhnall [Nugent] the Murray’s [Conor and Ryan] and former county players in Paddy [Cunningham], Michael [Herron] and John [Finucane]. Paddy and John were part of the Antrim team to reach the 2009 Ulster final, but I would say that the Cavan boys have performed at a higher level in inter-county. It will be a level playing field coming Sunday”.
The Lámhs will give Pearse Fitzsimons every opportunity to shake off the knee injury which has caused him difficulties since the county final but Lynch insists they will listen to the professional’s guidance.
“Pearse [Fitzsimons] is a doubt” revealed Lynch.
“We will give him a late fitness test on Sunday to see if he can prove his fitness but we aren’t physios and at the end of the day we need to listen to the professionals and take their guidance on board before hand”.