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Lynch is desperate for a rare Donegal conquest

By Declan Bogue

Beware the lesson of Niall Morgan.

Last season, the Tyrone goalkeeper was the 'in thing' as his long-range free-kicks brought something new to the table. Against Donegal in the league he nailed two '45s' and a free, as well as saving a Michael Murphy penalty to gain a win which was greeted in raucous fashion by the Healy Park support.

Come the championship, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness put three big men in front of him with their arms in the air to block out his view of the posts. After missing a few kicks, his confidence crumbled and took Tyrone's collective will with it.

The lesson here is that Donegal usually identify the opposition's greatest strength and turn it into a weakness.

To that end, close attention will be paid to Derry's Mark Lynch. After scoring 2-44 in the National League in a mixture of midfield and centre-forward positionings, as well as a host of man of the match awards, he is Derry's most potent threat.

Yet, modesty precludes him from seeing it that way.

"I haven't really thought of myself as a target man at all. There is a lot of the Derry team playing really well. I'm getting a bit of credit for kicking the odd ball over the bar but there's men who did a lot of hard work and deserve more credit than I do."

Against Dublin in the league final, Nicky Devereaux was sent to man-mark him and restricted Lynch to two points. Such close attention is part and parcel of the game, explains the Derry captain.

"It's something you have to deal with. It happens in games and when it does you just have to keep plugging away.

"Brian (McIver, manager) and the backroom staff are great at instilling that belief in you, that you have to keep going and keep going and eventually something will break right for you."

The 28-year old Banagher clubman has been on the county panel for a decade now, and in that time he can recall more bad days against their north-west neighbours than good.

Lynch recalls: "We came out on the losing side of many battles with Donegal. They are a very experienced championship team.

"We beat them in Ballybofey in the Ulster Championship in the first round in 2008 so that was the only good experience I've had against them, because they've beaten us in the qualifiers, they've beaten us in an Ulster final, and in the first round of the championship. So there have been a lot more disappointments than joys against them."

What gives this game an extra twist of intrigue was how both sides suffered in Croke Park on league finals day; Donegal losing the Division Two final to Monaghan and Derry getting a lesson from Dublin.

"We played the occasion not the game and were overawed by it all and never put our own stamp on the game," is Lynch's take now, a month on from that defeat.

"Certainly it was the game we've learned the most from and hopefully we'll never make the same mistakes again. It gives you that kick up the backside to train that bit harder, which is valuable."

Despite the pressure of championship week, Lynch still maintains he enjoys the hard work as much as ever.

"I didn't perform at all in the league final but the whole team is playing well and everyone is enjoying their training. When you feel you're getting rewards and you're winning, that sense of achievement is nice."

He added: "Brian and Paul (McIver) and Paddy (Tally) make the training ground a very enjoyable place to be."

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