BANAGHER manager Eamonn Lynch says his players are not interested in ‘empty’ plaudits after the club suffered its second heartbreaking Championship defeat in the space of seven days.
Michael Wilson reports
After the hurlers’ Championship final defeat to Swatragh, the footballers went into Saturday evening’s senior semi-final against holders Ballinderry as big outsiders, with bookmakers offering odds as long as 5/1 against St. Mary’s making the final. However a superb opening half saw them lead 0-4 to 0-2 at the break and it should have been more but one moment of Enda Muldoon magic set Raymond Wilkinson up for a decisive goal at the beginning of the second half. With the complex of the game changed, the Shamrocks eventually held on for a single point victory to break Banagher hearts.
And despite overseeing a transformation which has seen the club go from relegation candidates to Championship contenders, Lynch said it was no consolation to his players but backed them to bounce back stronger next season
“There’s no reward but to go to a final and lose would have been no reward either,” explained Lynch.
“This club has never won a senior championship in football. It’s 31 years since we were in a final. It’s a lifetime. I was in that squad as a 16-year-old corner-forward and it’s a long time ago. I think it’s unfortunate that you have people like Sean Marty Lockhart - one of the best players in Ireland throughout his career - not having a championship medal. Paul Cartin’s probably had the best three months of his whole career, in my view, and doesn’t have a medal to show for it. But, at the end of the day, Banagher need to break the duck.”
The raw emotion on display in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s game highlighted, if it was needed, what the game meant to the club but the Banagher boss said it was up to everyone within the club to try and create their own piece of history in the future.
“There’s this old thing about how much tradition impacts on a game of football but traditions have to start somewhere. Coleraine have done it, the Loup have done it. “Some of these days, we’re going to have to stand tall against a team like Ballinderry and not let them knock us off the track.
“We didn’t let them push us over tonight but we still didn’t win. It’s not about losing another semi-final. Winning would only have been another stepping stone. We still haven’t won a championship. I think of boys like my brother, Michael, Mickey Lynch or Jimmy Hasson - what they’ve put into the club and I could name a lot more who are probably in their 70s, who have been in Banagher football club since it was formed 47 years ago and are still itching to see that day.
“There was that bit of hope starting to rise in the last while and it’s been dashed again. That’s the disappointing thing. It’s another semi-final and we still haven’t won a championship. That’s the bottom line.”
Despite the disappointing finale, Lynch admitted there were positives to take from Banagher’s end of season performances.
“Yes, huge positives,” he added, “We came in and were in a poor place. Most importantly - forgetting everyone else in the county - the players proved to themselves what they can do, what they’re capable of. They’ve proved what a bit of effort and commitment can lead to. I couldn’t be any more proud of that bunch of lads, they’re a brilliant bunch of fellas.
“Myself, George and Honda came in and they have given every ounce of blood, sweat and tears we’ve asked from them. They have given absolutely everything. It’s a huge commitment. Paul Cartin’s in Cork and he’s up and down the road during the week. ‘Sticks’ is in Scotland and he’s back and forward like a yo-yo. That takes a huge effort, a serious commitment but the boys have given it everything.
“From the club perspective, they’ve lost two massive games in the space of seven days but if you’d said two months ago you’d be in a hurling final and a football semi-final, you would have been laughed at by most people. But we’re not interested in being gallant losers or heroic defeats. We’re fed up with that. We’ve had enough of it.
“Grown men are in there (the dressing room) disconsolate, genuinely in tears. That’s championship football. That’s why we get involved in it, because it means that much to us, because we love it. I just hope the lads have the heart and strength to come back and go again,” he added.