The Derry Senior Hurling Championship semi-final at Fr. McNally Park, Banagher (3.30pm) is a mouth-watering clash between 22-times champions Kevin Lynch’s and a Swatragh side that has won the league and is now focussed on lifting the Fr. Collins Cup for the first time.
Swatragh have made the senior hurling championship their priority from the start of the year and every game in the league was a preparation for that goal.
Manager Jim B. Bradley did not worry about injuries or absentees during that successful league campaign, explaining, “One man’s absence is another’s opportunity.”
There were games when they were short six or seven players but he simply got on with it and blooded a host of players, building an extended panel along the way. And it proved a successful strategy as they finished as champions.
Now they have their sights on lifting the senior championship title but first they have to get past their nemesis, Kevin Lynch’s and Bradley will be all too aware that winning a league game is one thing against Lynch’s but a championship win is a different kettle of fish.
So far it has eluded them, the 1-12 to 0-2 defeat in the 2008 decider still a bitter memory for Swatragh.
That day Ruairi Convery scored 0-09, 0-08 from frees, but he will be absent as he is recovering from a cruciate ligament operation.
However Kevin Lynch’s manager Davie McCloskey must be wondering what he has done to deserve the spate of injuries that has robbed him of several key players for this game.
Antrim star Ciaran Heron missed the one point win over Ballinascreen and will again be absent as he recovers from a knee operation. Ciaran Mackle broke a finger in that game and will also miss the Swatragh game, while Mark Craig took a knock on the leg and must be doubtful.
Fergal McGuigan pulled a hamstring in the final minute of Dungiven’s football game with Kilrea and is likely to be out for the rest of the season.
Swatragh will look to Conor Quinn and Seamus Bradley to keep the Kevin Lynch’s forwards at bay, James McKeagney and Cathal McQuillan possibly to anchor midfield and Sean McNicholl, Declan McGuckin, Mickey Conway and ace free taker Michael Kirkpatrick to do the business up front.
Of the task against Swatragh Kevin Lynch’s Liam Óg Hinphey said he ws expecting a tough test.
“We have to improve,” admitted the Derry star, “Swatragh have been going well, they’ve won the league. To say that it will be a step up would be doing a disservice to Ballinascreen but Swatragh are going rightly. That first half performance last week was terrible, so we have a lot of improvement to make.”
Without their injured players Kevin Lynch’s will need huge displays from the Hinpheys, Kevin and Liam, Paddy Kelly, Mark Craig if fit, Eoighin Farren, Donal Kelly and Paul Sweeney.