'The Proudest Man in Banagher' salutes his Ulster champions!

Hurling manager Ryan Lynch was the "proudest man in Banagher" after guiding the St. Mary's to an historic Ulster Intermediate Hurling Club Championship victory in Healy Park on Saturday.

By Michael Wilson
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 8:28 pm

Brian Og McGilligan's pivotal first half goal helped the Derry club fight back from a three points deficit to control the second half of Saturday's final against Fermanagh's Lisbellaw, with Ciaran Lynch's second major putting the seal on a richly deserved 2-11 to 0-12 victory.

The scene at the final whistle spoke for themselves as players, management and supporters swamped the pitch to celebrate the first ever victory for an Oak Leaf club in this competition with a delighted Lynch wearing the biggest grin in Healy Park.

"I'm the proudest man in Banagher but I'll be tested on that," smiled the delighted St Mary's manager, "All I can say is, all the players and their families, their wives, girlfriends, my own wife and all the parents here, we are a very tight know community. I know a lot of people say that but Feeny, Park, the Banagher area - we've had a few lads from around the Foreglen, Drum areas playing for us over the years as well but being that tight knit is what got us over the line in every championship game we played this year.

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Banagher captain Darry McCloskey lifts the Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship trophy in Healy Park on Saturday.

"Every opposition has been finding it tough to score against - just another 12 points today - and that's superb for a hurling team. People say about the back six being very strong but the front six is doing the work and the back six is tidying up along with the midfield.

"We are going to enjoy the hell out of the next few days, that's all I can say. We are proud to be Ulster champions for the first time."

Banagher's performance could have been summed up within seconds of throw-in when Gabriel Farren threw himself into a brilliant diving block on Lisbellaw danger man Tom Keenan, a feat he would later repeats after Ciaran Lynch's crucial second goal and that defensive solidity eventually broke the Fermanagh's men's resolve.

"Listen, there is technique, positioning and shape, the likes of Ciaran, Harry and myself, we look at things like that but in general those defenders just know what they are doing," added Lynch, "There's an understanding to it. They enjoy it.

Banagher players celebrate at the final whistle in Healy Park on Saturday.

"I used to play in defence and I loved it. I loved the art of defending when the opposition player is a superb player like a Ciaran Corrigan, a Sean Corrigan or a Tom Keenan that were there asking all the questions of us inside today.

"When they asked those questions, we were able to find the reaction and a way to nullify it. That's a superb art, that's as critical as taking a ball and striking it over the bar but, look, we had guys like Liam Eoin Campbell who struggled in the first half up front. We missed a lot of frees and then we had Liam popping up and taking vital scores at times.

"To be honest, a couple of times we went to make a substitutions and then the player stepped up with a huge possession, a huge move and we had to think again but that's the strength of our squad.

"We have 32 players, two or three long term injuries. I think we are at 24, maybe 25 guys used n the championship over the last few games. Every day it is a different five comes off the bench and we don't mind that because it is a team effort, a squad effort and what is getting us over the line."

Lynch also revealed the suspended Oisin McCloskey had talked to the players prior to throw-in and was someone everyone was anxious to secure the championship for.

"Look, we had three askes. One was to win an Ulster title; two was to get to play at a highest level in an All Ireland Club series because you never know when the chance will comes again but the third was for Oisin Roe to get to play again. We just wanted to get him another game because he deserves the right to step out on the field.

"If you want to call it that, he did a crime and done his time, that's it. Now, I would argue the delicacy of that but I'm a biased (laughs). Ultimately Oisin doesn't say very much but his actions speak louder than words. When he was in the changing rooms, he spoke before the game and again at half-time. When he talks they listen and now he gets the ultimate prize which is to step out on the grass in an All Ireland semi-final."

Saturday's win means a first ever step onto the All Ireland club stage for Banagher and Lynch said he was delighted his dedicated panel of players and coaches was getting the reward their hard work deserved.

"We just looked at it like every day out gave us an opportunity," he explained, "Darragh Roe (McCloskey) is the first captain to win an Ulster Club title for our club and you can never take that away from us. This can never be taken away from these guys. I still remember Gregory Biggs lifting the cup back in 2005 for the senior championship. He was the first man of our generation to do that for this club and he will always be the first, you just have to break that glass ceiling.

"These guys like to thump the life of of that glass ceiling and I'm proud of that fact. They'll not be found wanting in the next game. Whether that means we win or we lose, as long as we've played with pride, we'll throw the kitchen sink at it and find out where we are it.

"We'll be proud walking off the pitch no matter what, just like we have been in every championship game over the past two or three months.

"The game is over at this stage, the cup is on the bus and we are ready to rock. Everyone is welcome in Feeny!"

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