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We now have to adapt over black cards: Lynch

By Declan Bogue

Derry captain Mark Lynch, who came on for the final 20 minutes of Sunday's McKenna Cup semi-final against Tyrone, claims that Gaelic football has changed for the better and it's up to teams to adapt quickly.

The first game in Ulster this year that could realistically be described as being played at 'league pace' yielded two black cards and a definite shift in how defences will be allowed to treat attackers.

Throughout the game, Donegal referee Shaun McLaughlin used the advantage rule and kept the game flowing, but it led to quite a bit of confusion on-field, according to Lynch.

"You have to understand what the rule is now, what type of tackle you can put in and what you can't put in. The referee was good but the advantage rule is tough, it's not his fault, he's just playing by the rule.

"It's just that sometimes you're expecting to get your free and you maybe stop, but he's playing this advantage – wee silly things like that can creep into it."

Patsy Bradley's black card with three minutes remaining was the first Derry picked up in the January tournament, prompting Lynch to enthuse: "The referees have actually been very good, they haven't been throwing black cards out willy-nilly.

"It has kept the physicality in the game, allowing the tackle, but you just have to be mindful of what's changed –stopping a man when he goes to run or pulling a man back when he goes to make a run, things like that have stopped. It's allowed the game to flow a bit better."

Lynch was speaking at yesterday's launch of Setanta's National League coverage at Belfast's Merchant Hotel.

Earlier, he had taken part in a photoshoot that involved getting into a hot-tub with Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly, a promotional stunt that somewhat baffled the humble Banagher man. As it happens, the 28-year-old engineer is working around the corner at the University of Ulster premises. His father is his employer, making it an easier task to skip out for training and events of this nature.

The opening Saturday night of the league will feature Derry hosting Tyrone at Celtic Park, at the same time Dublin play Kerry. On Sunday, Derry manager Brian McIver came straight out and said that February 1st is the real aim.

With experienced Tyrone campaigners to return, Lynch is aware that there will be skin and hair flying in pursuit of league points.

"It will be a tough, tough test for us," he cautions. "Going up against Tyrone, there's always that added bite, with it being Derry v Tyrone but it's two teams trying to get two points and I know they'll go as hard at us as we will against them.

"If we don't, we'll be found wanting in division one because we have to really battle hard against these teams because they're the best teams in the country."

Tyrone and Derry has always been an enduring rivalry, but in recent years Derry victories have assumed the status of hen's teeth, something that Lynch believes has perhaps come down to their own attitude.

"We were maybe caught up in playing our rivals and just never played the football. All those times they beat us you had to hold up and say 'we just weren't good enough on the day'. Unless you rectify that, you'll never beat Tyrone."

He acknowledges that Tyrone could afford to lose their opener and still would hold their own in the top flight, but for Derry things are different.

"We have to play every game like it's a Championship game. We'll be seen as a whipping boys I would say. We have a very young side. They have given it a wee lift because they have an energy and an enthusiasm about them."

One man who will not be lining out against the old rivals is Eoin Bradley.

As captain, Lynch did not involve himself in the discussions between the attacker – who has opted to see out his contract with Coleraine in the Irish League – and manager Brian McIver. Yet, he states that both parties handled the impasse with class and does not rule out a return for 'Skinner' closer to the Ulster Championship.

"He's going really well at the soccer and you can't hold a grudge against him, he's made his choice. Brian (McIver) has left the door open for Eoin and we would certainly have the door open."

Belfast Telegraph


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