Kevin Lynch’s bowed out of the Ulster Club Championship on Sunday at the end of eight days that saw them stage a stunning comeback to draw with Lavey, then crush them emphatically before falling apart in the final quarter against a Loughgiel side that was anything but impressive, despite the lopsided nature of the final score.
Lynch’s played against the wind in the first half but were very tentative in the early stages, Liam Hinphey hooked in the first minute and then conceding a free that allowed Liam Watson to get Loughgiel off to a scoring start.
Four times in the opening 30 minutes Kevin Lynch’s either dropped a free short or wided when in reasonable scoring positions, three shots in scoring range carelessly wided. Despite this wastefulness the Derry champions were just two points adrift, lifting their game after conceding three points in eight minutes.
Showing two changes from the side that beat Lavey in the county final midweek, usual corner-back Donal Kelly replacing Paul Sweeney in attack, Fergal McGuigan taking over from Padraig McKenna up front, Kevin Lynch’s were cleaned out on puck outs in the first half as Loughgiel won that ‘battle’ 17-5!
From such a base it was inevitable the Dungiven defence would find itself under intense pressure, especially with ace finisher Watson immediately switching from wing forward to the inside line alongside Brendan McCarry, county star Joey Scullion dropping deep to augment the midfield.
Indeed but for superb cover by Aaron McCloskey on Watson early on and Eoighin Farren on Brendan McCarry ten minutes from half time the Shamrocks might well have netted twice.
Yet for all that Lynch’s were just 0-06 to 0-02 down after 15 minutes and got right back into the game in the 18th minute when a Niall Ferris shot was parried by keeper Damian Quinn, Ferris poked the ball towards the line before the inrushing Paddy McCloskey found the net for 0-06 to 1-02.
Given the amount of scoring chances that Lynch’s had in the first half they would have been disappointed to trail 0-08 to 1-03 at the break, although quietly relieved that the hot favourites showed themselves not to be the force their favourite’s tag suggested.
As team mentor Eoin Mullan explained after the game, “I thought that initially we were a bit nervous. We had opportunities and did not take them. At this level you cannot afford not to take those opportunities. At this level you have to take every opportunity and unfortunately it didn’t happen for us.”
In the opening ten minutes Paddy Kelly and Kevin Hinphey added to the wides tally from frees, Mark Craig losing possession in the goalmouth when a goal looked a possibility but the signs were already ominous that the efforts against Lavey in the two games was beginning to take its toll.
By the 40th minute the Antrim champions had extended their lead to 0-11 to 1-04, not an insurmountable one with the wind at their backs but they needed to get their attack moving. That didn’t happen as ball inside continued to be slow and poorly placed.
Then came the score that opened the floodgates, Loughgiel’s passage to goal eased when two Kevin Lynch’s players collided and were on the ground as McCarry took a pass from Scullion,and drilled the ball low across keeper Brian Lagan to the corner of the net.
Ten minutes from time Kevin Lynch’s had a chance to cut the margin to seven points when McCloskey played an inviting ball across the goalmouth from the right but it just eluded the unmarked Ferris in front of goal and ran harmlessly wide.
Two minutes from time Dan McCloskey wriggled his way past a couple of defenders to score the second goal, Kevin Lynch’s cup of woe overflowing when Ciaran Mackle was a red card after an ‘incident’ with substitute Damian Laverty. Of the incident Kevin Lynch’s mentor said, “I didn’t see it, so I cannot comment’. Indeed few, if any, in Casement Park saw what happened!
At the final whistle Kevin Lynch’s Ulster odyssey was over, tiredness after two exhausting games in the Derry championship certainly a factor, Eoin Mullan questioning the scheduling of these games in proximity to the Ulster game.
“It’s not rocket science”, he suggested, when asked if this had been a factor.
Loughgiel Scorers: Liam Watson 1-07 (1-06f), Brendan McCarry 1-03, Declan Laverty 0-03, Dan McCloskey 0-02, Joey Scullion 0-02, 0-01 side line, Eddie McCloskey 0-01
Kevin Lynch’s scorers: Paddy McCloskey 1-01, Paddy Kelly 0-02 frees and Kevin Hinphey 0-02
Loughgiel: Damian Quinn; Paul Gillan, Neil McGarry, Ronan McCloskey; James Campbell, Martin Scullion, Johnny Campbell; Barney McAuley, Mark McFadden; Liam Watson, Declan Laverty, Eddie McCloskey; Brendan McCarry, Joey Scullion, Dan McCloskey. (Subs) Damian Laverty for E McCloskey, 46 mins; Tony McCloskey for P Gillan, 52 mins.
Kevin Lynch’s: Brian Lagan; Ciaran Mackle, Aaron McCloskey, Eoighin Farren, Kieron O’Kane, Liam Og Hinphey, Conal McCloskey; Paddy Kelly, Mark Craig; Donal Kelly, Paddy McCloskey, Kevin Farren; Fergal McGuigan, Kevin Hinphey, Niall Ferris. (Subs)Paul Sweeney for K Farren, 44 mins; Padraig McKenna for D Kelly, 55 mins; Turlough Hendry for F McGuigan 59 mins
Referee: Declan Magee (Antrim)