Kevin Lynch's make senior championship final as Banagher rue missed chances

Corey O'Reilly was in superb form for Kevin Lynch's in Saturday's victory over Banagher. (Photo: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN)
Corey O'Reilly was in superb form for Kevin Lynch's in Saturday's victory over Banagher. (Photo: MARGARET MCLAUGHLIN)

Kevin Lynch’s 1-18, Banagher 4-7

Just when it looked as if Kevin Lynch’s were heading for a comfortable victory in the opening game at Owenbeg, Banagher hit them with two late goals to narrow the gap to just two points.

However, as time ran out on the Feeny men, they were left to regret some sloppy finishing early in the second half as Kevin Lynch’s, by virtue of Eoghan Rua’s later victory over Lavey, booked a fifth successive senior county final spot.

Kevin Lynch’s, with the Mullan brothers John and Richie back from their travels, looked smooth, skilful and confident until those late goals. Their defence struggled to deal with the high ball when Banagher went route one in the closing stages but they had done enough earlier to book a place in the final against Slaughtneil. If Kevin Lynch’s are to cause an upset their defence will need to be a lot tighter than it was in this game.

Banagher sub Shane Murphy, from both play and frees, rained the ball into the Lynch’s goalmouth in the last 10 minutes and caused panic. His last aerial effort in the third minute of added time was gathered by fit again Brian Og McGilligan but he was crowded out by the now massed winners’ back line.

For the greater part Lynch’s looked fitter and more cohesive with Corey O’Reilly and John Mullan picking off some brilliant points. At times they led by as much as nine but Banagher were always living in hope and had they adopted the long game earlier, who knows what the end result might have been. In the complicated scenario of the day, a Banagher win would have left Eoghan Run in the senior final.

With both goalkeepers going for the long puck out, the respective half back lines had a busy day and the midfielders were less involved than usual. This suited the winners’ top scorers, O’Reilly and Lynch, who read the situation well and picked off some great scores from distance. The Banagher defence were guilty of giving O’Reilly in particular, too much space. Although he was wearing No. 15 the other main Lynch’s scorer, John Mullan, roamed outfield to pick off scores.

Banagher did defend quite well with Gabriel Farren, Darragh McCloskey and keeper Conor Campbell dealing well with long bouts of Lynch’s pressure. However they lacked the teamwork of the winners and it took the long ball game to give them a scoring outing. They started without one of their key payers Darragh Cartin who was injured but did come off the bench late on.

The winners started in whirlwind fashion with an O’Reilly point and two from John Mullan. Banagher’s got off the mark when Tiarnan McCloskey set up corner forward Liam Eoin Campbell after seven minutes.

A long distance effort from Sean Kelly regained the Dungiven men’s three point lead which soon became six. The Banagher defence failed to

clear a free from Richie Mullan and Odhran McElhinney first timed the ball to the net.

After Liam Campbell missed a Banagher free, Tiarnan McHugh put seven points between them but it was not a good day for Campbell on the frees as he wided a ’65. He did however compensate with one from play to leave the score 1-5 to 0-2.

Then, for a period it became the Corey O’Reilly show. He hit four points in a seven minute spell aided by one from John Mullan. Sean McCullagh responded with a point for the St. Mary’s but with 23 minutes gone they trailed 1-10 to 0-3. A Campbell free and one from O’Reilly still left a yawning nine points between them four minutes from the interval.

Then Banagher were thrown a lifeline in the 28th minute. A Gabriel Farren free went into the ‘mixer’ from where the in-form Ciaran Lynch crashed it to the net. From the puck out Callum O’Kane returned the ball over the bar to leave the half time score 1-11 to 1-5.

In the 35th and 37th minute McHugh and McElhinney added to the Kevin Lynch’s total but eight minutes in Banagher were thrown another life line when McGilligan took a Darragh McCloskey pass to rifle past Liam Hinphey and close the gap to five. That soon went out to six from an O’Reilly free.

Liam Campbell responded for Banagher and when Ciaran Lynch sent over in the 42 nd minute the gap was now just four as Banagher belief grew. Players like John Mullan are needed when a crisis is emerging. He picked up a ball some 60m out and sent over the point of the game.

McHugh then saw his effort brilliantly saved by Conor Campbell but somehow the ball came back into his possession and this time he tapped over to open up a 1-16 t2-7 lead.

Four minutes from time O’Reilly put a safe looking eight points between the teams at 1-18 to 2-7 but Banagher and Shane Murphy were not finished yet. The impressive sub landed a well delivered ‘drone’ on top of tall replacement Niall Brolly and he flicked the ball to the Lynch’s net.

Dungiven packed their defence for another long range Murphy free in the 62nd minute, Lynch this time getting on the end of it and finding the net. Now there was just two points separating the teams.

However, it was not third time lucky in the last play of the game. McGilligan did win the ball but he was surrounded by half a dozen players and blocked down. Kevin Lynch’s were in the final but left with a lot to ponder!

Kevin Lynch’s scorers: Corey O’Reilly (0-8, 4f). Odhran McElhinney (1-1), John Mullan (0-4), Tiarnan McHugh (0-3), Sean Kelly (0-2).

Banagher scorers: Ciaran Lynch (2-2), Liam Eoin Campbell (0-3, 2f), Brian Og McGilligan (1-0) and Niall Brolly (1-0), Sean McCullagh (0-1), Callum O’Kane (0-1).

Kevin Lynch’s: Liam Og Hinphey, Niall McGonigle, Paddy Kelly, Ronan Mullan, Richie Mullan, Mark Craig, Darragh McGilligan, Thomas Brady, Steven O’Neill, Corey O’Reilly, Sean Kelly, Odhran McElhinney, Eoin McKeever, Tiarnan McHugh, John Mullan. (Subs) Eoghan Cassidy for E McKeever (51), Ruairi Rafferty for R Mullan (58)

Banagher: Conor Campbell, Jack Lynch, Ruairi McCloskey, Cathair McGilligan, Gabriel Farren, Darragh McCloskey, Oisin McCloskey, Callum O’Kane, Cathal O’Kane, Brian Og McGilligan, Tiarnan McCloskey, Ciaran Lynch, Liam Eoin Campbell, Sean McCullagh, Steafan McCloskey. (Subs) Shane Murphy for T McCloskey inj (17), Darragh Cartin for C O’Kane, Niall Brolly for S McCullagh and Callum Armstrong for L Campbell all (52)

Referee: Eamonn Hassan (Swatragh).