Between them they have 40 Derry senior hurling titles, Kevin Lynch’s leading the way with 22, Lavey winning their 18th crown last year when they ripped the Dungiven side apart in the opening quarter en route to victory.
Lavey had four titles under their belt before Dungiven won their first in 1967 and six in a row to 1977. Three more followed before they won their 13th title in 1989, their third as Kevin Lynch’s.
Lavey’s golden age was between 1985, when they beat Kevin Lynch’s in the final, and 2002 when they collected a dozen titles.
Now these two great clubs meet once again with current Derry captain, Kevin Hinphey of Kevin Lynch’s claiming last year’s final has re-ignited the spark of an age-old rivalry.
“Aye there would be a big rivalry historically,” explained Hinphey, “When I was growing up Lavey and Dungiven were the big two in hurling. However since I started playing hurling the rivalry has died down a bit.
“I think that I’ve only played against Lavey a couple of times but maybe with meeting two years in a row that rivalry is starting to spark up again. But for most of the players playing now the rivalry would not have the same level of intensity as it would have had in the 80s or 90s.”
Last year Kevin Lynch’s were going for ‘five in a row’ but were stopped in their tracks by Lavey, something which is still a source of discontent in Dungiven.
“We’d won so many in a row and people were sort of expecting you to win the next one. But we did not perform on the day. And that’s what happens when you don’t perform on the day. We were well beaten.”
When it is suggested there appears a greater determination about the team this year, Hinphey agrees.
“Definitely! I wouldn’t say there was a lack of focus last year but certainly this year there was a great urgency to get back to the final. That has been shown in the performances. There have been a few new, young players introduced this year and they’re fighting for their places. It’s only their first or second year. They’re as hungry as everybody else. They have no experience of winning medals. They want to win their own medals and not continue to listen about players of the past winning medals.”
Lavey had an indifferent league season but have come alive in the championship.
“Lavey will be happy with the way things are going now but they have a good championship tradition. They’d come into this game as slight favourites. They have shown the better championship form so far. They’re the defending champions and they’re there to be knocked off the perch but they’re a good side.”
Kevin Lynch’s will again be without Antrim star Ciaran Herron who is recovering from a knee operation. He did not play in the semi final win over Swatragh.
“He’ll be hard to replace,” added Hinphey, “He plays in a higher division with Antrim all year. That shows when he comes in. He’s a class act. You could not speak highly enough about him. He’s a big loss and would be to any team but other players will just have to put in that wee bit extra effort to make up for his absence.”
Indeed Kevin Lynch’s have had their injury worries this season but Kevin Hinphey remains positive, flagging up the young players who have come in and played well,
“The last day against Swatragh we had a calamity of injuries before the game. Indeed had we picked up any more we would have struggled to field a team.
“It was getting bad but I suppose one man’s loss is another’s opportunity and young players like Niall Ferris, Padraig McKenna and Ciaran O’Kane came in and they played very well. Now Davie (McCloskey, the Kevin Lynch’s manager) has a bit of a headache with players coming back from injury. He has a selection problem but it’s a nice problem than he had going into the Swatragh game.”
Paddy McCloskey and Fergal McGuigan have been on the injury list recently, although the former did play against Swatragh and lined out for Drum in the Junior football Championship final last weekend.
“Paddy’s a very experienced player. He’s a great ball winner around the square. If we can get the ball into him he’ll cause trouble. Fergal is another player coming back and fighting for his place. He played 20 minutes in the football semi final at the weekend and has shown no reaction after his hamstring injury so he’ll be in contention.”
Lavey got a boost ahead of the final with the proposed eight week suspension reprieve for Sam Dodds. He will pose a huge threat to the Lynch’s defence with his accuracy and predatory instincts.
However Hinphey, while admitting, “Sam’s a good player”, added, “But Lavey have probably the best forward line in Derry, with players like Sam Dodds, Paddy Henry, the two Murphys and Caolan O’Boyle. Yes, he’s a good player but he’s one of a number that will have to be carefully watched come Saturday. I’ve seen Paddy Henry with the county and he does not miss too many frees. He’s a very good player and has probably made the difference for Lavey against other teams this year.”
On the probable absence of Paul Hearty Hinphey said, “He hasn’t played much hurling for Lavey this year. The likes of Ciaran Herron has played most of the games for us this year and now he’s out at this late stage so we’re trying to adapt, Lavey didn’t have Paul Hearty in the first place. I’m sure they’re happy with what they have now, with a settled team.
“As I’ve said, Lavey are probably slight favourites. They’ve been the form team. They’re the defending champions. There’s probably a bit of a flip side though The pressure is all on them now whereas last year all it was on us. They had nothing to lose. That has flipped on its head. It’s theirs to lose and it’s for us to take off them.”