‘They fought as men’

John Mullen Captain of the Kevin Lynch team Derry and his team celebrate their victory over Celbridge in the Div 3 Hurling Feile Final at Croke Pk. Feile na nGael Div 3 Hurling Final- Celbridge Co Kildare v Kevin Lynch Derry at Croke Park. (1007SJ100)

John Mullen Captain of the Kevin Lynch team Derry and his team celebrate their victory over Celbridge in the Div 3 Hurling Feile Final at Croke Pk. Feile na nGael Div 3 Hurling Final- Celbridge Co Kildare v Kevin Lynch Derry at Croke Park. (1007SJ100)

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It could well have been an All Ireland Senior final such was the strength of pride and emotion felt by players and fans of the U-14 hurlers from Dungiven’s Kevin Lynch’s Hurling Club who took Croke Park by storm at the weekend to win the All Ireland Feile.

The team are All Ireland Division 3 Feile naGael title winners after a blistering performance in Croke Park on Saturday, at the home of Gaelic Games.

Chair of the club, Gerard McGonigle hailed the team’s success a “massive achievement” making it the Club’s sixth ever all-Ireland Féile title.

Paying tribute to the entire panel of 22 players and their management, he told the ‘Journal’ the lads had done themselves, the club, Dungiven and Derry GAA proud. He said it was also an emotional day, with special memories of Kevin Lynch and everything he had achieved when he was in his teens, adding: “It was quite emotional for the Lynch family.”

Mr. McGonigle said from the moment the squad arrived “they had one sight in mind and that was winning and doing the town and the club proud”. “It was unbelievable,” he said. “At times you had to pinch yourself because they fought as men, not lads. They played exceptionally well despite the damp, wet conditions, and they weren’t overawed by Croke Park. They were fantastic.”

On Thursday the team played St Oliver Plunketts, the host club in a tight game, despite the final score, with Kevin Lynch’s winning 2-11 to 0-5. They went on to play St Jude’s of Dublin in the pouring rain, finishing with a final score - KLHC 3-08 St Jude’s Dublin 0-01

St. Brendan’s, Kerry were the opposition in the final group with a scoreline of 5-05 to 1-01. The semi-final against Trim of Meath was played in torrential rain with club members working hard to remove large amounts of surface water from the pitch. The Lynch’s finally won by 3-11 to 1-4. The team won their final game in Croke Park 2-15 to 1-4.

“The win means absolutely everything to everybody,” said Mr. McGonigle. “The pride they brought home and the support they have had from family has been unbelievable. It means a lot to everyone in the parish. To witness the joy on the faces of everyone around us on the day was fantastic. It was overwhelming.”

He added: “The families of these young lads have been out a lot of pocket but they’ve paid them back 100 times over. It’s just fantastic. Words can’t really describe it. This is an exceptional team and these lads, all 22 of them, are phenomenal; and great credit must go to the manager, Liam Hinphey Snr, assisted by Kieran Farren and John Angelo Mullan.”

Captaining the team was 14-year-old John Mullan.

“We trained hard all year and it paid off,” said the midfielder. “It was a fantastic result and a big achievement. We’re all very proud.”

Also turning out was 14-year-old Pauric McNicholl, who plays at centre half-forward.

“It was a brilliant achievement and to play in Croke Park; I loved it. It was a once-in-a-lifetime achievement and everyone is just really proud.” There was double joy for 13-year-old twins Seamus and Feargal Higgins.

“It’s the sixth time for the club so it’s a brilliant achievement, and everybody was just so happy,” said Seamus, who plays full back. “I’m over the moon. It was a class achievement to go on and win at Croke Park, which felt fantastic to play in and if you can’t play well at Croke Park you can’t play well anywhere!”

Brother Feargal, a full-forward, said: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet that we played and won in Croke Park. It’s unbelieveable, and Croke Park, the pitch felt like carpet.

“We didn’t get too stuck on the fact we were playing at Croke Park on the day, we just wanted to win. Everybody is so happy and feels so proud.” The players and management were treated to a traditional homecoming in Dungiven with a lap around the town in their honour.

Acting Secretary of the Kevin Lynch Hurling Club, Cathal Ó hOisín MLA said: “This is an outstanding achievement and one that could even possibly have been achieved at a higher division, but nonetheless pays testament to the depth of talent and commitment and to what is the Club’s sixth ever all-Ireland Féile title, only one less than the most held by the James Stephens Club in Kilkenny.”

For a round-up of the games go to kevinlynchs.com