Lámhs blown away by Gael force

AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Championship

CRLL3813By Kevin Herron at Breffni Park

Lámh Dhearg 0-10-1-19 Cavan Gaels

Lámh Dhearg’s return to the Ulster football stage was a brief one as they were comfortably beaten 1-19-0-10 by Cavan Gaels in Sundays AIB Ulster Club Football Quarter-final at Breffni Park.

The Red hands were second best throughout the contest and had captain and goalkeeper John Finucane to thank for ensuring the goals against tally stood at a respectable one. Finucane was inspirational as he denied Martin Dunne and Kevin Meehan in the opening period and then clawed away Paul O’Connor’s goal bound shot in the second-half.

The Antrim Champions were looking forward to dinning at the top table in Ulster for the first time in twenty-five years, but knew that faced an opposition in Cavan Gaels who were regulars at that table and were embarking on their sixth Ulster Championship campaign in the space of ten years.

From the offset Cavan Gaels took the game to Lámh Dhearg and within the opening fifteen seconds they had raised the first white flag of the afternoon through midfielder Robert Maloney Derham who curled the ball over the bar.

Things could have been much better for the hosts a minute later when Cavan county star Martin Dunne bore down on the Lámh Dhearg goal, but Dunne couldn’t a way past an alert John Finucane.

Lámh Dhearg eventually got to grips and levelled after five minutes through pacy wing-half forward Eoin McKeown who popped the ball between the posts after dazing one or two of the Cavan Gaels defenders with his trickery.

The Lámh Dhearg goal was leading a charmed life, Cavan Gaels burst at pace and worked a second goal opportunity within the first six minutes and just as it looked as though Seanie Johnston had done enough to turn the ball home his shot crashed off the underside of the bar and out.

Martin Dunne would restore the Gaels lead through a converted free and began a run of eight unanswered scores for the hosts.

Dunne converted a second free on eight minutes and after Paul Graham turned over the resulting kick-out, Robert Maloney Kerham claimed his second point of the afternoon to give his side a 0-04-0-01 lead.

Ryan Murray missed the opportunity to cut the deficit as his shot dropped short of the target and Cavan Gaels worked the ball into the path of Seanie Johnson who claimed his first point of the afternoon.

Further point followed courtesy of Kevin Meehan and Levi Murphy before Cavan Gaels finally found the goal their play in the opening exchanges had warranted, midway through the first-half.

Robert Maloney Derham spread the ball into the path of Johnson and flowing passing move saw Michael Lyng eventually palm the ball past Finucane and into the net to give the Cavan champions a 1-07-0-01 lead.

Martin Dunne added his first point from play two minutes later and after almost fifteen minutes without a score Lámh Dhearg raised a cheer from the visiting support as Paddy Cunningham converted a free.

Pearse Fitzsimons then won the resulting kick-out and played his part in the move which saw Ryan Murray land a wonderful score as Lámh Dhearg were beginning to gain a foothold in the contest.

Seanie Johnston put an end to Lámh Dhearg’s brief purple patch, though Paddy Cunningham kicked back to back points for Lámh Dhearg for the second time to take his tally to the afternoon to three and make it 1-09-0-05 on the scoreboard.

The Lámhs didn’t create too many goal scoring opportunities throughout the game but when one did present itself on 26 minutes it was passed up; Ciaran Flaherty did well to win the loose ball on the edge of the square and pick out Domhnall Nugent in space, agonisingly for Nugent though his shot flashed low and wide of Ciaran Flynn in the Cavan Gaels goals.

In between Nugent’s missed opportunity, Seanie Johnston and wing-half forward Andrew Graham split the posts to give their side a deserved 1-11-0-05 lead and leave Lámh Dhearg with a mountain to climb.

Lámh Dhearg started the second-half on the front foot with Paddy Cunningham landing the opening score from a free and despite Martin Dunne replying at the other end Cunningham conjured up a fantastic score with his effort from the outside of the boot that sailed over in the wind.

The Antrim Champions couldn’t add to improved start though and with ten minutes of the half elapsed Cavan Gaels restored their nine-point advantage through a point from Michael Lyng.

Paul O’Connor should have put the game beyond doubt on 43 minutes but John Finucane came to Lámh Dhearg’s rescue for the third time, showing great reflexes to keep the corner-forward at bay.


Paddy Cunningham once again top scored for the Hannahstown side

Dunne hit a point in the aftermath and his side soon had three unanswered points as Barry Fortune and another from Johnston made it 1-16-0-07 with just over ten minutes left to play.

Lámh Dhearg were without a score in almost eighteen minutes despite the best efforts of Ciaran Flaherty who had saw more of the ball in the second-period, Paddy Cunningham came close to claiming his third point of the half from converted frees, but for the large post.

Ryan Murray eventually ended his side’s scoreless streak after brother Conor turned the ball over and fed his younger sibling.

Lyng, Dunne and Johnston completed Cavan Gaels scoring in the aftermath of Murray’s score and with the outcome very much a foregone conclusion points from Paddy Cunningham (free) and an excellent score from Ryan Murray ensured that Lámh Dhearg would at least hit double figures as their Ulster return ended in a 1-19-0-10 defeat.

Cavan Gaels: C Flynn,  L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan (0-01), D Sexton, B Fortune (0-01),L Murphy (0-01), P Graham, R Maloney Derham (0-02), N Smith, M Lyng (1-02), A Graham (0-01), P O’Connor, S Johnston (0-05), M Dunne (0-06,0-02f). Subs: D Meehan for A Graham (44 mins), V Coyle for N Smith (52 mins), D Graham for M Lyng (56 mins), K Donohoe for P Graham (56 mins), S Higgins for K Meehan (59 mins), J Fortune for D Sexton (62 mins).

Lámh Dhearg: J Finucane, P Mervyn, A McAufeld, M McGarry, D Lynch, M Herron, B McComb, P Fitzsimons, D Nugent, E McKeown (0-01), C Flaherty, C Murray, P Cunningham (0-06,0-05f), R Murray (0-03), K Quinn. Subs: C Nolan for M McGarry (34 mins), P Larkin for P Fitzsimons (43 mins), B Rice for D Nugent (46 mins), G Slane for B McComb (51 mins), S Tully for E McKeown (57 mins).

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Doire)



It’s a privilege for Lámhs to compete in Ulster: Lynch


Lámh Dhearg Coach Stephen Lynch (right) with his brother Martin (team manager) after the club’s win over St John’s

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”.0-20

Journey into the unknown could prove rewarding for Lamh Dhearg


Ulster Club Football Championship

Cavan Gaels (Cavan) v Lamh Dhearg (Antrim)

Lamh Dhearg head to Breffni Park in Cavan this Sunday and for the Hannastown side it is a journey into the unknown. No doubt they will be well briefed on the considerable talents of Cavan Gaels, their opponents in this weekend’s Ulster club championship but for the Belfast side it will be something most of them have never experienced.

Its 25 years since Lamh Dhearg last had their hands on the McNamee cup but the Hannastown side came through a tough battle with old rivals St. John’s at Glenavy a couple of weeks ago to lift the trophy and once the euphoria had died down it was time to plot the downfall of the Cavan champions.

Cavan Gaels represent a stiff challenge for the Antrim men and on their own patch Breffni Park, the challenge looks all the more formidable. Cavan Gaels defeated Castlerhavan at Kingspan to collect their first title since 2014 and are a team laced with talented players.

County player Seanie Johnston turned in a man of the match performance in that final, scoring five points but he is only one of many excellent players who the Lamh’s will face on Sunday. Michael Lyng is another name familiar to Antrim supporters but the new golden boy of Cavan football, a few year’s ago had a promising county career hampered by injuries. Lyng appears to back to something like his former best and with Robert Derham and Michael Dunne will take some watching.


Cavan Gaels 0-13 Castlerahan 0-8

Cavan Gaels captured their first county SFC title since 2014 with the minimum of fuss at Kingspan Breffni.

Veteran Seanie Johnston collected his tenth county medal and the man of the match award in what was a real tour de force.

Castlerahan were their own worst enemies, though, as they set about trying to claim first ever title.

They let the Gaels off the hook when Paul Smith blasted his shot over instead of under the black spot on 16 minutes and then Cian Mackey’s effort from the penalty spot – after Daniel Lynch was brought down – flashed wide of the junction of crossbar and upright in the 23rd minute.

Seanie Johnston and Robert Maloney-Derham compounded Castlerahan’s travails by splitting the posts with consummate ease.

Thereafter, Johnston’s points proved pivotal in steering his side into a 0-7 to 0-2 interval lead but points after the break from Oisin O’Connell, Oisín Kiernan and Mackey kept Castlerahan in touch.

Castlerahan kept nipping away at their opponents’ heels but to no avail and the dismissals of influential duo Cormac Daly and Stephen Cooney only served to rub salt into their wounds.

Cavan Gaels: C Flynn; L Fortune, N Murray, K Meehan; S Murray, B Fortune (0-1), L Murphy; P Graham, R Maloney-Derham (0-2); N Smith (0-2), M Lyng, A Graham; P O’Connor, S Johnston (0-5, 2f), M Dunne (0-2, 1f). Subs: D Sexton for S Murray (42 mins); D Meehan (0-1) for A Graham (49 mins); S Fitzsimons for B Fortune (BC, 61 mins); V Coyle for P O’Connor (62 mins).


While Cavan Gaels will start Sunday’s encounter as firm favourites they would do well not to underestimate their opponents, Lamh Dhearg. The Antrim champions are there on merit having defeated former Ulster and All Ireland champions St. Galls in an epic battle in the semi-final where they recovered after conceding two early goals to the Milltown side.

In the final they were pushed all the way by a St. John’s side who had defeated reigning county champions, Cargin after a replay in the other semi-final. With the game finally balanced Paddy Cunningham and Declan Lynch hit the all-important late scores to see the Hannastown side home.

Those two games will surely have brought the Hannastown side on both in terms of fitness and confidence and with a number of county and former county players in their ranks they will feel they have nothing to fear.

Cunningham has been a member the Lamh Dhearg side for nearly two decades and has experienced the bitter disappointment of defeat in five final over the previous 14 years before this year’s success. For a lot of those years he represented Antrim County with distinction and still carries a considerable scoring threat.

Indeed the side has quite a number of players who have represented the county and Declan Lynch and the Murray brothers, Conor and Ryan were part of the county team over the last few years while Ciaran Flaherty is a former Fermanagh county player.

John Finnucane captains the side and the former county keeper brings experience to a defence where Michael Herron, Brendan McComb, Declan Lynch and Aaron McAufield have impressed this season. Donal Nugent is likely to line out at mid-field with Paul Fitzsimmons while Cunninham and the Murray’s will be joined in attack by the flying Kevin Quinn and Eognan McKeown.

Paddy Cunningham’s free taking could be vital if Lamh Dhearg are to progress and they will need to settle quickly and not concede too many early scores. If their defence can contain a lively Cavan Gaels attack then they certainly look to have the fire power to trouble the Breffni men and don’t be too surprised if the Antrim flag is still flying in Ulster come Sunday evening.


Lynch delighted with win while Nugent has no complaints


Lamh Dhearg coach Stephen Lynch and his brother Martin , who is the team manager, at the end of the game

The smile on the face of Lamh Dhearg’s team coach Stephen Lynch after the game told the story as he reflected on his side’s win following a titanic struggle and ultimate success gained over the Johnnies, and indeed on the Hannahstown men’s journey to gain the Mac Namee trophy.

‘It has been a long hard road to travel since we last took our place on the podium, said the man responsible for the fitness more than evident within the ranks of the men in red and white, and indeed my heart really goes out to the gallant St John’s. They really are an excellent team and those two encounters between them and Cargin will reside long in the memory’.

‘Another draw did look likely approaching the end but our lads dug deep and many fundamentals required surfaced within our ranks as to a deep desire, hunger combined with a little bit of cuteness and all those hard hours in preparation paid dividends’.

‘We were more than aware of the breeze in favour in the last period and aided by the guile and absolute class of Paddy Cunningham we came through.

Paddy could still be playing for the county and himself and the likes of Decky Lynch, Micko (Michael Herron), and Reg (Brendan Mc Comb) took charge when the going was getting tough and led the boys onward when it would have been easy to throw up the head’.


Lamh Dhearg will now take a step forward on the Provincial trail as they look forward to a meeting with the Breffni representatives (Cavan Gaels) in the opening round but the Lamh Dhearg man admitted he had not given this step a second thought.

‘To be honest I had not given the Ulster Club competition a second thought but we will take a look to see how our lads get over this one and take it from there.

We have been moving forward in Antrim one step at a time and we will hopefully continue in such in Ulster’.


St John’s manager Paddy Nugent

The St John’s manager Paddy Nugent was philosophical in his after match comments reflecting on a heart wrenching defeat he said, ‘Sure that’s football and perhaps you do have to endure the pain of defeat and difficult as it is to endure such heartbreak can have the end reward of learning and with it become stronger in the process.

The lads have given me a savage effort all year and they are young enough and certainly talented enough to become stronger as result but today has been hard’.

‘I can have no complaints as to how the Lamh Dhearg men closed the game out in the latter stages, indeed if you have a one point advantage when the county final enters injury time the objective is to get over that winning line intact.

I offer my complete and unreserved congratulations to Lamh Dhearg and perhaps this experience gained will provide stepping stones for both the teams to step forward.

We will most certainly take the positives out of this and when we consider the bad place in which we were residing last year we are now in a much better shape.