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Banagher relish being underdogs, says Lynch

Action man: Mark Lynch’s role is central to Banagher’s plans
Action man: Mark Lynch’s role is central to Banagher’s plans
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When Banagher were relegated to Division 1B of the Derry All-County League earlier this year, their season appeared to be over.

The Championship was still to come, of course, but then a team that had not won a league outing was actually deemed to have no business rubbing shoulders with the likes of Slaughtneil and the other aristocrats of Oak Leaf football in the county's flagship competition.

But Banagher had other ideas and, after dumping the fancied Bellaghy on the seat of their pants, they handed out a sharp lesson to a Swatragh side that were thought to be unbackable in their quarter-final meeting.

Tomorrow, Banagher will look to make it a hat-trick of shocks when they face another surprise packet in O'Donovan Rossa, Magherafelt in a semi-final at Owenbeg (6.30pm) that has captivated football followers throughout the county.

While Banagher's platoon of young guns have joined in firing out the warning that the team really does mean business in the Championship, then old hand Mark Lynch is the glue that has been holding the defence and attack together in his role as the equivalent of an authoritative quarter-back.

A few years have elapsed since Lynch last wore the Derry county jersey, but the commitment, passion and power that were his hallmarks back then will still be very much in play tomorrow. So too is the obvious pride he takes in his club.

"We were not given much chance against Bellaghy or Swatragh but I think we showed what we can do when we put our minds to it," maintained Lynch, whose father Mickey also represented Derry.

"We are going into this match as underdogs again but that does not worry us. Like ourselves, O'Donovan Rossa have surprised a few people in the Championship to date so they won't fear us."

Peter Hagan, Shane Farren and Brian Og McGilligan are other key players in a Banagher side that is enjoying a new lease of life under the Championship banner.

The team's ability to switch from defence to attack at lightning pace, while at the same time showing patience in retaining possession, has proved crucial to date and can serve them well tomorrow.

But Banagher's vibrancy will nonetheless be tested by an O'Donovan Rossa side that has shown impressive form to date, not least in claiming the scalp of reigning champions Eoghan Rua, Coleraine.

They are not short on individual talent, with Emmett McGuckin still doing the business in attack and Simon McErlain, Cormac Murphy, Jared Monaghan and the Heavron brothers Danny and Shane playing with relentless passion.

Like Banagher, the Magherafelt side feel they are due a longer stint in the spotlight.

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