BEVAN LYNCH’s glorious four year reign as City of Derry’s Head Coach came to an end in a highly emotional day for the Judges Road club on Saturday as they concluded their All-Ireland League campaign with defeat to Queens in Belfast.
The Kiwi coach has overseen the club’s most successful period in its history since taking the role in 2008 when Derry had just been relegated to junior rugby in the AIL Division Three, and he now relinquishes his leadership as forwards coach, Mark Nicholl takes charge.
Under Lynch’s stewardship, the club have won the Ulster Qualifying League (2009, 2010), Ulster Towns Cup and Junior Cup (2009), McCambley Cup (2009, 2010), All-Ireland Junior Cup (2010), promotion to All-Ireland League Division 3 (2010), the All-Ireland League Division 3 title (2011) and also made an appearance in the 2011 Ulster Senior Cup Final.
While the club had an opportunity to finish in the top four of the All-Ireland Division 2A table with victory over Queens on Saturday, the result mattered little and Queens - who had harboured hopes of promotion - ran out convincing winners in the end.
The Students, despite their bonus point victory, were pipped for the second place league finish by Malone who ran out comfortable winners against Seapoint.
Derry’s pre-season ambition was to consolidate their position at this level and build for a tilt at promotion next season.
The club had gone 10 games unbeaten prior to their last two AIL fixtures against Malone and Queens and had put themselves in with a chance of promotion despite an indifferent start to their league campaign.
Had they won their last two fixtures with bonus points they would have also won promotion to AIL Division 1B so the 2011/12 season must be regarded as highly successful.
Derry were quick out of the blocks against Queens and managed to record the first score when Simon Logue turned over possession on seven minutes in his own half when he won a penalty for not releasing.
Derry Scrum Half, Andrew Semple took a quick penalty and made an incisive break and when the ball reached full back, Peter Henderson he touched down between the posts. Richard McCarter converted as Derry took an early seven points advantage.
Queens came storming back but outstanding defensive work by Chris Barber, Adam Bratton, Stephen Corr and especially David Funston thwarted their best efforts.
The students eventually got in for a score when their impressive out-half, James McKinney created space for his captain Paul Karayiannis to run in for a try from 20 metres which McKinney converted to level the scores.
The game became fragmented as both teams came close to scoring on a number of occasions but mistakes abounded with the only other score before half-time a penalty from McKinney which left Queens leading by 10-7 at the break.
Queens were soon on top in the second half and a good break by full back, Quinn set up winger, McIlwayne for an unconverted try on 10 minutes.
This was followed on 17 minutes by another nicly timed inside pass by James McKinney to McCauley for another unconverted try.
McKinney and McCauley repeated the same move on 25 minutes and this time McKinney converted and extended Queens’ lead to 20 points.
Derry, to their credit, responded with real spirit and commitment. Chris Shields, Sam McAuley and Sam Duffy were dominating at the scrum and in the loose, ably supported by David Houston and Bob McKillop who had replaced Chris Cooper due to injury in the first half.
The Derry back row of Mark Walker, Richard Baird and Stephen Corr were winning the battle at the breakdown and enjoying some quality possession.
Derry had a number of chances to reduce the arrears but over-eagerness led to inaccuracy in their play and a number of clear-cut opportunities went begging.
Derry had brought on Brian Prue, Stephen Duffy, Richard Peoples and William McCleery as the game progressed. Prue, Stephen Duffy and McCleery combined to turn over scrappy ball in their own half as the game entered its final stages and when they released Funston he ran 60 metres to out-strip the Queens’ defence and score a great try which Richard Peoples converted.
Queens had the final say on the stroke of full-time when their forwards got in for an unconverted try to put the gloss on an impressive performance from the Belfast men.
City of Derry - Chris Shields, Sam McAuley, Sam Duffy, David Houston, Chris Cooper, Stephen Corr, Mark Walker, Richard Baird, Andrew Semple, Richard Peoples, Simon Logue, David Funston, Chris Barber, Adam Bratton, Peter Henderson; Replacements - Stephen Duffy, Bob McKillop, Brian Prue, Richard Peoples, William McCleery.