Lavey will play host on Sunday evening to the two quarter final games in the Derry Senior Hurling championship with Swatragh and Ballinascreen in the opening game, holders Kevin Lynch’s then meeting 2012 Division 1 league champions Slaughtneil in what could be the game of the championship.
Swatragh v Ballinascreen
(Erin’s Own Park, Lavey, Sunday, 4.00pm)
When these sides met at the start of the season both fielded experimental sides with Swatragh emerging victorious by the minimum margin. In that game Michael Conway gave Swatragh the boost of an early goal as they went on to lead by three points at half time. The former Derry stalwart was then on hand to take the ball from a Michael Kirkpatrick in the final moments of added time and slot over the winning score.
Conal O’Kane was the main Ballinascreen scorer with 0-04, although one of his points came from a penalty, Aaron Kelly and Reamann Kennedy weighed in with a brace of points each but it was the wonderful accuracy of Michael Kirkpatrick, who finished with 0-07, that provided the foundation for Swatragh’s first win of the season.
Kirkpatrick and Conway will again be key players for Swatragh as they try to get back to take another stride towards the summit.
Swatragh have been knocking at the championship door in recent years but they have yet to win the title, their 2008 1-12 to 0-12 final defeat to Kevin Lynch’s the nearest they’ve come to lifting the Fr. Collins Cup.
They have had league success in recent years but, even though they a match for any team in the county on any given day, they have lacked the same consistency when it comes to Championship.
Ballinascreen have won three Derry senior titles but there will be few around Ballinascreen that can remember their last success in 1939!
Yet no team would ever take a Ballinascreen side for granted as they too have the ability to turn over the best when in the mood.
Still they have not appeared in a final since 2003 when they lost by a point to Kevin Lynch’s, They were four times defeated finalists in the 80s, Lavey and Kevin Lynch’s their nemesis on those occasions.
They have experienced players like Sean McBride, Conor McKenna, Anton Kelly, Reamann Kennedy and Dean Flanagan but they could be without one of their brightest young stars, Paul Cleary, for this game.
He was a member of the Ballinascreen team that reached the U21 final last year and it will be that side that will backbone Gabriel O’Kane’s young team this weekend, with Conal and Rory O’Kane, Cahan Moran, Ciaran Conway, Oran Cleary, Benny Heron, Emmett McKillion and Charles Gilmore of that U21 team on show.
Swatragh will look to Ruairi Convery, who is in top form at the moment, Michael Kirkpatrick, Michael Conway, Conor Quinn, Cathal McQuillan, Sean McNicholl, Seamus Bradley and Chris Convery to take the battle to the young Ballinascreen side.
The opening tussle at Lavey could go down to the wire and might even require extra time before a semi-finalist emerges!
Kevin Lynch’s (Holders) v Slaughtneil
Sunday at 5.45pm
Twelve years is a long time to wait for the Fr. Collins Cup to come back to Emmet Park but that’s the hand that Slaughtneil have been dealt in the intervening period.
In the same dozen years Kevin Lynch’s have brought the coveted trophy to Kevin Lynch Park on seven occasions and they defeated the Emmet’s in the 2004 and 2009 deciders, as well as the 1998 final when a replay was needed to determine the outcome.
Now the sides meet at the first hurdle and the omens would suggest that Slaughtneil have their best chance for many a year of ending Kevin Lynch’s monopoly on senior hurling.
Slaughtneil have enjoyed a similar monopoly at underage level for several years now with success in the last four seasons at U21 level the result of numerous titles at U14, U16 and U16 contributing to the building blocks of a senior team that has won the senior hurling league this season for the first time in many years.
Along the way they got the better of Kevin Lynch’s but Slaughtneil will be all too aware that league success has not been an indicator of Championship success in recent years!
Kevin Lynch’s have vast experience in their ranks but a serious knee injury has ruled out Paddy McCloskey and that will be a be a huge blow to the reigning champions who will be trying to reach their 10th successive final.
Their hugely talented U21 senior county player Paddy Kelly suffered a leg injury some weeks back and is struggling for fitness.
However the experience of Liam Hinphey, Kevin Hinphey, Ciaran Herron, Mark Craig, Kieran Mackle, Aaron McCloskey, Cathal McKeever , Eoighin Farren and Kevin Farren will ensure that Slaughtneil will have to be at their best to turn impressive league form into championship victory.
Slaughtneil have given youth a real chance this year, players like Se McGuigan, Sean Cassidy, Bliadhan Glass, Pearse McGrath, Gearoid Kelly, Oisin O’Doherty, Dominic Mullan and Karl McKaigue all getting loads of game time in the league.
But the experience of Damian Kearney, Cormac McKenna, Peadar Quigg, Peadar Kearney, Paudie McGuigan and Chrissy McKaigue brings balance to a young side.
The momentum is very definitely with Slaughtneil but they will have to match and surpass a wealth of Championship experience that Kevin Lynch’s bring to the table.
However it remains to be seen if Kevin Lynch’s can put a poor league season behind them and overcome the youthful exuberance of an emerging Slaughtneil 15.