City of Derry secure superb Ballymena win

BEVAN Lynch praised his players after they secured a morale boosting, bonus-point Ulster League victory over Ballymena at Eaton Park on Saturday despite suffering the loss of influential out-half Richard McCarter in the warm-up.

The Judges Road side’s return to form comes just in time for this weekend’s crucial All Ireland League Division 3 showdown with Instonians, with the teams currently lying second and third in the table.

AIL defeats to Rainey and Ards in the post-Christmas period had threatened to derail Derry’s promising season and Lynch is hoping Saturday’s six-try victory could be the catalyst for his side to go on and clinch their second successive promotion.

“We played very well on Saturday with a good pace to our game which was pleasing to see,“ revealed Lynch.

“Losing Richard (McCarter) before the game was a blow but credit to the boys, they stepped up to the mark. I thought we played all the rugby and it was a good team performance.”

Richard Peoples came off the bench to fill in for McCarter who now faces a race against time to be fit for Instonians. However, with Peoples in sparkling form himself Lynch has something of an embarrassment of riches at No. 10.

Derry’s opening try from William McCleary was cancelled out when Daryl O’Kane touched down for the home side but it was the visitors who led 17-5 at the break thanks to tries from Richard Baird and Peoples with the latter converting one.

Peoples continued to play a pivotal role after the break with a vital penalty while another Baird try made it 25-5 and at that stage it looked game over.

Credit to the home side though as they refused to buckle and battled back to out-score Derry by three tries to one before David Funston grabbed the visitor’s sixth try to eventually confirm victory for Lynch’s men. Andy Kerr’s late effort did provide Ballymena with the consolation of a bonus point.

While the Ulster League is not exactly top of Derry priority list, Lynch was relieved to have secured a victory which moves his team into second place, seven points behind Ballynahinch, but with a game in hand, while Dungannon are two points further adrift.

“The last thing we wanted was to do was give a below-par performance and come away making excuses. We were missing a few players but the ones we brought in played better than we thought they would. They really stepped up to the mark. “We made some telling breaks at crucial times and can now look forward to what is a massive game for us against Instonians. We’ll be looking to pick up a result that will keep us in charge of our own promotion destiny,” he added.