A Mark Lynch inspired Derry had six points to spare over the reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin as they won 1-16 to 0-13 in Celtic Park last Sunday afternoon.
Lynch was superb as his blistering 1-8 helped Derry to a victory that sees them into second place in Division 1 and well placed to stake a claim for a semi-final play-off spot.
While Dublin may have been short several of their All-Ireland winning side this was still an impressive victory a Derry team were in Division 2 last season.
A crowd of over 6000 was kept on its toes throughout a thrilling encounter with plenty of top class scores punctuating the fast and furious action. Among that tally were a number of thunderous efforts from the mercurial Mark Lynch, he scored 1-4 from play and four points from frees.
The first thirty minutes seen the side’s trading points from the first score after just 22 seconds, when Paddy Andrews opened for the Dubs. Derry levelled within a minute as Eoghan Rua’s Declan Mullan cut in from the right before tapping over.
Lynch from a free and then Ciaran McFaul had Derry ahead before Paul Hudson had Dublin level in the 12th minute. Derry again moved two but turnover led to Paddy Andrews levelling matters in the 19th minute. Dublin then briefly took the lead with another Paul Hudson point but Mark Lynch with a tremendous point levelled it.
Fergal Doherty, who was immense in the middle of the field knocked over both points for Derry, the first he fisted over when he might have gone for goal. In reply Dublins’ best player on the day, Alan Brogan, twice popped up to point leaving it all square after 50 minutes.
Then came the only goal of the game as Sean Leo McGoldrick did well to get a pass off to Kevin Johnston who quickly shifted the ball on to Mark Lynch who burst through before clipping a low drive to the far corner of Stephen Cluxton’s net. Lynch then quickly added another from a free afte Caileann O’Boyle did well to win a free, suddenly Derry had some breathing space, four points up, for the first time in the game.
There was still four in it at the break as Brogan and Ciaran McFaul traded points, Derry 1-10 to 0-9 ahead.
At the start of the second half Dublin almost found the net when Tomás Brady hit the post from close range following an incisive attack just lacking the finish. Derry responded from that scare and hit the opener, again it was Lynch from a free on target. Moments after that Derry had another goal scare as the ball was swiftly moved forward for wing back Darren Daly to get through but his low shot flashed just wide of the post.
The gap remained five but then two points in two minutes from the impressive Alan Brogan left just three between the sides, 1-12 to 0-12, with less than 20 minutes to go. In between the sides trading points two players, one from each side, seen red cards.
The first to go was Derry’s Mark Craig, he had just got a yellow card 20 minutes into the second half and then two minutes later he picked up a black card so he was off. After consulting his linesman the referee than sent of Dublin’s Philly McMahon on a straight red for seemingly striking Mark Lynch off the ball.
With just three points separating the sides and less than ten minutes left the next score was going to be crucial. Fittingly it was Mark Lynch that showed the way firing over a huge point from just outside the 45m line. Derry went on to add two more in the closing minutes , Lynch from a free, following a foul on Declan Mullan and Benny Heron from close range, Ciaran McGoldrick setting up this score.
It was an impressive display from Derry, Doherty and Bradley more than held their own against the Dublin midfield pair of McAuley, last season’s player of the year and Cian O’Sullivan. Derry’s half back line of Kevin Johnston, Gerard O’Kane and Sean McGoldrick was solid while Mark Craig put in another good shift. Benny Heron worked tirelessly throughout but it was that man Mark Lynch who made the difference in a superb man of the match performance.
Next up for Derry is a home game against Kildare on 30th March with alast outing away to Mayo.
Meanwhile, the Derry adult championship draws were made last week at Owenbeg and threw up a number of intriguing pairings, not least the first ever meeting of Eoghan Rua and Kilrea. That should prove to be a very tasty first round tie as both these town teams will be hoping to get a good run, preferably through the ‘front door’.
Meanwhile the reigning Derry and Ulster champions, Ballinderry were once again paired with old rivals Newbridge. Other first round ties of note sees a couple of the big hitters lock horns, Bellaghy taking on Dungiven while last years’s beaten finalists Ballinascreen meet Slaughtneil. There is also a fascinating all-North Derry battle ahead with Glenullin meeting Banagher.
Two teams will be making their debuts in the Derry senior hurling championship, local club Eoghan Rua and city side Na Magha. Both these sides have played at Junior or Intermediate level in championship hurling in Derry with this years’ entry into the senior grade a real step up in quality opposition.
Eoghan Rua will meet Ballinascreen while Na Magha take on Swatragh, the holders Slaughtneil face Banagher.