Brolly’s Bites - Senior Hurling in Derry, who gives a damn?

It HAS been confirmed this week by the English F.A. that Wayne Rooney is going to write a personal letter to the European governing body seeking clemency.

I have an image of him sitting at the scullery table, pencil at the ready. “Colleen!” he shouts. “Colleen!”

“ I’m having my nails done Wayne, what is it?”

“How do you spell Beckenbar?”

“Is that the new club in King’s Road love?”

“No for f.... sake Colleen, the Frenchman!”

I am writing a letter of my own. On Sunday past, Kevin Lynches senior hurlers took the field at Casement Park for their crunch Ulster semi-final with Loughgeil. Dungiven is a hurling nursery and we have had three or four agonisingly close tilts at the Ulster title.

It has become the holy grail in the town. During the summer my sons go down to the Lynches Hurling Camp and stay in their granny’s for the week.

The skill level of the underage groups is astonishing. Driving about the town any day of the week you will see young lads with their hurls, chatting, pucking about, or just dandering along with the hurl.

A few weeks ago I was down home to see my father and mother and took a scoot over to Lynches Park. It was Saturday about ‘half threeish.’ There were eight or nine young lads pucking about. John Angelo Mullan’s son Richie was taking sideline cuts, zipping them over the bar one after the other. Every time he bent and struck, the plastic sliothar took off with the sound of an angry bee. As they flew over the black spot, I sat outside the new pavilion beside the marble plaque honouring our dead hurler, shaking my head and smiling.

Richie is 10-years-old. After a few minutes, he lifted the sliothar onto his hurl and walked over to join his mates. As he moved, he hopped the ball high into the air, scything it back up again as it came down, wielding his hurl like a sword.

The boys then played an impromptu game, scoring from all angles, running through their bag of tricks.

In the middle of it, a car pulled up and out got Liam Og Hinphey, senior hurler for Dungiven, Derry, Ulster and Ireland. “Do nets Liam Og!” the boys shouted.

Liam opened his boot, selected a hurl and duly took his position between the posts. I left after half an hour with the game evenly poised.

Under-12 Feile

Champions

The Lynches under-12’s are the Feile champions. They won it in Tipperary six weeks ago, beating the best teams in Ireland. The Kilkenny and Tipperary champions were put to the sword in the knockout section.

In the final, they beat a brilliant Rossa team from West Belfast. Afterwards, the locals sang the boys’ praises. My nephew Pearse played at corner back and e-mailed me a photograph of Lar Corbett and himself holding the cup.

On the Sunday before the Ulster Senior semi-final last weekend, the Lynches played Lavey in the Derry final. In an exhausting, nerve shattering game, first Lavey appeared to have won it, then the Lynches until finally, with the last puck of the day, the Orangemen rescued a draw.

The Dungiven lads were no sooner in the dressing room than the physio was hard at work, rubbing tired limbs and strapping up strained ligaments.

The replay was fixed for Wednesday night, again at Celtic Park. From the throw-in, the Lynches were simply awesome. The best performance I have seen from the club since it’s formation.

They played at an electrifying pace and within 15 minutes Lavey were reeling. Kevin ‘Bomber’ Hinphey started the game in the unusual position of full-forward. Two quick high balls in brought two goals.

By the 16th minute we were 13 points up. The team was on the crest of the wave. On and on they went against the old enemy, playing a superb brand of modern hurling. They finished their work at twenty past nine on the Wednesday night. The cup was presented to Eoghan Farren in front of the ecstatic townsfolk and as I left, I suddenly realised we had no chance against Loughgeil.

The game was fixed and that was that. It was a genuinely sad occasion. The Lynches young team was simply exhausted.

From the throw-in it was clear that they were not tuned in. Kevin Hinphey is recognised as one of the best three or four hurlers in the province. He could barely strike the ball. At one stage, he made a run towards the stand, picked up the loose ball and struck it over his shoulder. As he let it off, he went down on one knee at the sideline, shattered.

A group of Loughgeil men behind me were sympathetic: “How can you play three Championship matches in a week. It’s impossible.”

Everyone around nodded in agreement. At half-time we were two points behind but no one was in any doubt as to what would happen next.

There are six senior hurling clubs in Derry. Two preliminary games, two semi-finals and a final. Yet the final is played in October?

There are three senior clubs in this year’s Ulster Championship, the champions of Derry, of Antrim and of Down. This means one semi-final and a final. Two matches. Yet the Dungiven hurlers are forced to play three games in a week and the Dungiven hurling community are expected to grin and bear it. It is a disgrace.

There is no other way to describe it. Until the hurlers are shown some respect, there is little point in Richie Mullan and his mates spending their days in Lynches Park, cutting sidelines till dusk.