Mark Lynch warns Derry biggest challenges are yet to come
Derry captain Mark Lynch has received the perfect boost in advance of Sunday's Allianz Football League semi-final against Mayo.
The 28-year-old Banagher clubman is the latest winner of the Ulster GAA Writers' Association monthly merit award following his outstanding performances throughout March.
In particular, the award recognises Lynch's immense contribution against Dublin and Kildare, in each of which he scored 1-6.
But while delighted with Derry's progress and admitting that he is "both surprised and pleased" to have won the Writers' accolade, Lynch believes that Derry's biggest tests have still to come.
"We are going back to Croke Park on Sunday and that's the place as a player you really want to be. You are always seeking to test yourself against a good team and Mayo certainly come into that category," states Lynch.
"It will be a great buzz for us to face them at Headquarters and see how we can perform there. Even if we are fortunate enough to beat Mayo, we know that either Cork or Dublin would be lying in wait for us in the final and that would be another massive challenge.
"But we are certainly not counting our chickens. Obviously our recent form has been pleasing and while I am delighted to have won the Writers' award, this would not have been possible had a lot of other players not done the work that led to my scores."
Indeed, it's Derry's teamwork which has underpinned their surge through the league to date with manager Brian McIver having frequently altered his line-up, yet without this impacting in the slightest on his side's consistency.
He may have made 14 changes for last Sunday's round seven league encounter against Mayo in Castlebar but a battery of familiar faces will return against the westerners.
Lynch warns that this will not necessarily guarantee success now that the penultimate stage of the league has been reached.
"We have essentially a young squad and that's why we have to take things one step at a time. It's an old cliché but it's the only way you can work things," points out Lynch, an engineer in his father's thriving M&L Contracts construction company.
"We have to be careful – we don't have the experience or the overall depth to say that we won't go hard in a particular game. Indeed, every game is almost like a championship game for us – we have to respect the jersey every time we don it and give our all."
In winning his Writers' award, Lynch fended off the challenge of Antrim hurler Paul Shiels, Monaghan footballer Dessie Mone, Fermanagh's Thomas Corrigan, Donegal's Christy Toye, All-Ireland championship handball winners Aishling Reilly and Johnny Woods and Tyrone hurler Darren Casey.