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Lamh Dhearg will get job done in final replay after mammoth Antrim run: Lynch

 

Going again: Mark Lynch is sure Lamh Dhearg will prevail in the Antrim final replay
Going again: Mark Lynch is sure Lamh Dhearg will prevail in the Antrim final replay
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

This Saturday, there will be extra-time and penalties to declare a winner if Lamh Dhearg and Erin's Own Cargin cannot be separated by another hour's football.

The Antrim county final replay has been fixed for this weekend, once again in Corrigan Park at 4pm, and it will be the Hannahstown side's seventh Championship game of the campaign.

It's difficult to think of a team that has played so many games within their own domestic Championship, especially when it is one with a straight knockout format, but Lamh Dhearg have managed it.

After a facile opening-round win over Ahoghill, they accounted for Creggan in the quarter-final. Then came their trilogy against Casement's, Portglenone.

The second game against Casement's was due to be decided by a free-kick competition, but that was cut short by Antrim county board chairman Ciaran McCavana, who felt it wasn't a fitting way to determine a winner.

In keeping with the indecision around the rule, the Antrim county board have released information that the game will be decided by penalties if a winner does not emerge after normal and extra-time.

Despite their long season to date, Lamh Dhearg manager Martin Lynch is bullish about extending their commitments.

After it was pointed out to him that Saturday will be their seventh game, he replied: "Well, there will be a lot more. Hopefully, by the time we are finished with Ulster, there will be a lot more."

One facet of the game was how Cargin, despite being much more seasoned and maybe expected to tire in the closing stages, pushed hard and ate through Lamh Dhearg's lead.

Lynch didn't accept that their heavy workload in recent times - the three games against Casement's coming in the space of 10 days - was to blame.

"It's hard to tell," he said. "We knew that in the second half Cargin would come back at us and we would be under pressure for spells. I don't think that was the key indicator.

"I think the key indicator was that we made silly mistakes and gave the ball away in the final third in the last 10 minutes, and I think if we hadn't have done that, we would be sitting here as Championship winners."

His men now have ample opportunity to get their legs freshened up for the replay. As they drove off towards the Black Mountain from Corrigan Park, it had already been addressed.

However, Lynch still does not accept that his side have a greater chance now with more recovery time.

"If it was, and I can't concede that it was, our mistakes were the problem, not tired legs, well now both teams are equal," said the father of key player Declan Lynch.

"I am happy enough with that. They have to go and regroup the same as we have to go and regroup.

"The one thing about this team is that we are full of character, and the never-say-die attitude is something… I think the way they talked to each other, they are just so frustrated, they know they should have won the Championship - but they didn't.

"But they will do it the next time."

One thing this run has done for Lamh Dhearg is equip them with a greater understanding of the psychology of replays.

It is often said that the team who carried the momentum from the drawn game will prevail in the replay, but there is nothing to back that up.

The reaction of the two camps in the immediate aftermath was telling. Lamh Dhearg reacted like a team that had lost a game, and this was further explained when Lynch stated: "I think the frustrations of the players, if you look over that match, the only thing wrong was they didn't manage it in the last 10 minutes. They had Cargin dead and buried.

"In fairness, they are county champions and that's why they are, because they can come back.

"But the frustration, it was because they put them to the sword for 50-55 minutes and then let them back into it for the last five.

"I think that's normal in sport, it's part of game management. Those guys have been through the mill, the top team in Antrim for the last five or six years, fighting it out with St Gall's. We need to learn that too."

Meanwhile, five-in-a-row All-Ireland football champions Dublin will begin their quest to compile 10 consecutive Leinster titles in 2020 against Westmeath following yesterday morning's draw.

Former Footballer of the Year Paul Galvin is now in charge of Wexford's footballers and he will be up against Wicklow. Carlow, with Down minor coach Steven Poacher still involved, have a tempting draw against Offaly.

Louth will face Longford with the winners playing Laois in the next round.

The GAA have opted to have a series of provincial draws this year, with Ulster's draw to be made tomorrow morning live on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland.

A number of intriguing match-ups could be in the offing, with Derry, Fermanagh and Monaghan all having new management teams in place.

The Oak Leafs' cause for the season ahead has certainly been boosted following Slaughtneil's exit from the Derry Championship to Glen at the semi-finals stage over the weekend.

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