By Michael McMullan
MARK Lynch is one of eight players from Banagher’s 2018 final win expected to be in their starting lineup on Sunday.
Looking ahead to their final date with reigning champions Glenullin (Celtic Park, 1pm), the former Derry star is expecting a “brutal hard” encounter.
Banagher came within a whisker of making the 2019 senior final. Since then, their new indoor training facility has helped them mould the underage players who will sustain the club for decades to follow.
“The hall has been built and we are seeing the fruit of it with the youngsters, especially the ball wall…the youngsters live in it,” added Lynch, who is lending a hand to coach the club’s youth.
He points to the impact of the youth officer Andrena O’Kane, the coaches and the school. It takes everybody.
The u-17s and u-15s have their silverware tucked away. There has been hurling success and the camogie teams are also laying the foundations.
“There is definitely that buzz that comes from being in a championship final and you can see that around the club,” Lynch adds.
Before a championship ball was kicked, Banagher and Glenullin would’ve been in a handful of teams with a genuine of taking home the bacon.
Banagher finished top of their league section score difference ahead of Drumsurn and Foreglen. Glenullin had the head-to-head advantage over Greenlough in their group.
“It has been a difficult championship and games have been so tough,” Lynch admitted.
“Most teams scalped each other and it made the group stages really tight.”
No game was easy. Every team had their own threat and Banagher prepared accordingly.
Paul Bradley, a championship winner as a player and manager with Sleacht Néill, came in as manager at the start of the season.
The league was used to get to know the players and begin the climb towards the championship preparation.
Then, it was a week on week cycle. Tuesday was about getting their sights on an opponent. The preparations continued on a Thursday and there’d be a game at the weekend.
“Paul takes a level of professionalism that he takes from his successful career as a player and as a manager,” Lynch said.
“The big thing he brought to us was improving us as players; even down to basic skills…he has improved us massively on that and our awareness of the game.
“Between himself and Eunan (O’Kane) it has brought massive improvement to us as players.”
What about Sunday? “Tough,” came Lynch’s response, with a deep intake of breath. He knows what Glenullin will bring after watching their “ding duster” against Drumsurn in their semi-final that needed extra-time.
He highlights Glenullin’s scoring power. Players like Eoin Bradley and Ryan McNicholl can’t be shot down completely, but need curtailed.
“We have to curb them as best you can and hope they don’t hit the heights they have hit,” Lynch summed up.
“It is going to be a brutal hard game, it will go the distance. It is about who manages the occasion and who takes their chances.
“They are very experienced in that they won it last year,” Lynch said of what Glenullin will bring.
“A good lot of our boys played in 2018 but we have a good few who are getting their first taste of it.
“It is a pretty big day and you hope you don’t get caught up in the occasion and just play the game…all will be told on Sunday.”