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Lynch keen to see Lamh Dhearg take a big step up in the world

 

By John Campbell

Lamh Dhearg powerhouse Declan Lynch willingly concedes that his team celebrated their Antrim senior football championship title-winning feat in some style - but not to the extent that they took their eye off the ball for tomorrow's Ulster club championship quarter-final meeting with Cavan Gaels at Kingspan Breffni Park (2.30pm).

The last occasion on which Lamh Dhearg claimed the county title by virtue of their superiority on the field of play was 46 years ago, although they did win the crown in 1992 when they were awarded it without the final being played.

Over the course of the last 14 years the Hannahstown club have lost in five finals, but now that they have at last come good, there is a burning desire within the club to take things to the next level.

The straight-talking Lynch believes there is more to come from a side that cocked a snook at both the form book and the critics while at the same time wowing their followers by emerging as the Saffron kingpins.

"Let's just say we enjoyed our win over St John's who are our great rivals in west Belfast, but we always knew that the Ulster club championship would see us in a bigger spotlight and now we hope to do ourselves proud in this competition," states Lynch.

His driving surges, zest for combat and unflinching courage make him a manager's dream and tomorrow these attributes will certainly be required against a Cavan Gaels side that has responded well to the promptings of their new manager Jason O'Reilly, who has delivered a county title in his first season in charge.

Nor is Lynch the only lion-hearted warrior in the Lamh Dhearg ranks.

Long-serving forward and ex-Antrim skipper Paddy Cunningham is still producing the goods up front from play and frees, the talented Murray brothers Ryan and Conor are at the peak of their powers and skipper John Finucane is among the most reliable club goalkeepers in the province.

Cunningham, who has defied illness to play his part in the team's breakthrough this term, sees the match as another significant test of skill, character and staying power.

He says: "We took each match as it came during the Antrim championship because we knew we were below the radar and that other sides were being fancied. But we grew in confidence with the passage of time."

If Lamh Dhearg have what they believe to be their quota of stellar players, then Cavan Gaels are not short on quality either.

Niall Murray, Michael Lyng, Robert Maloney-Derham, Paul O'Connor and Martin Dunne have gained considerable experience at all levels but the real ace in their pack is renowned marksman Seanie Johnston whose scoring exploits with the Gaels and the Cavan county side have made him a Breffni legend.

Meanwhile, Scotstown and Kilcar also meet tomorrow in what should be a fascinating quarter-final battle at Clones (2.30pm).

Scotstown will have the Hughes brothers Darren and Kieran along with Rory Beggan and Conor McCarthy in their ranks while Kilcar will look to the McHugh cousins Ryan and Eoin and Paddy McBrearty for inspiration.

McBrearty in particular has been in fine form for the west Donegal side and could prove a particular thorn in the side of the Scotstown defence tomorrow afternoon.

He may be only 24 but he has accumulated a host of honours including an All-Ireland senior medal with Donegal five years ago.

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