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09 Dec 2021

PREVIEW: A battle in prospect in intermediate hurling decider

Lavey take on Banagher on Sunday afternoon at Owenbeg.

PREVIEW: A battle in prospect in intermediate hurling decider

Leadon Timberframe Derry IHC Final

Lavey v Banagher

Owenbeg

Sunday November 14

2.00pm

Ref: Tarlach Conway (Ballinascreen)

A physical encounter is expected at Owenbeg as Lavey and Banagher collide in Derry's final hurling fixture of the season.

With the senior title again tidied away by Slaughtneil, and the junior crown going to Na Magha following Coleraine's no-show, the intermediate final takes centre stage.

Erin's Own come into the decider as slight favourites, but the south Derry side have had to contend with their ongoing football campaigns, which have come at a cost.

James Crawford limped out of last week's reserve football semi final win over Bellaghy and is unlikely to play any part in this weekend's game.

Manager Johnny McGarvey would no doubt have watched Wednesday night's reserve final win over Slaughtneil through his fingers, with no less than eight dual players involved.

“It's frustrating. I don't like how the timings have worked out,” he said.

“You're working with senior football all the way through and then it looks like you might get a run at it and you've two reserve football matches before you get to the final.

Colm Dillon in action for Lavey's reserve footballers on Wednesday night. Pic by Brendan McTaggart

“This is probably a good thing [for the dual players] to have this to fall back on after losing the football semi final though. All of them attended training on Sunday morning.

“They are a really good bunch of lads who can't wait to get back at it.”

The Gulladuff men have hit a healthy total of 7-77 (98pts) in their five championship matches, with a scoring average of 19.8 close to the target of 20 that McGarvey has set his side.

Their average concession of 20.0 raises an eyebrow, but the manager has warned against reading too much into the numbers.

“I wouldn't be overly concerned, because 4-20 of that was to Slaughtneil,” he said.

“That result didn't bother us, but the performance did. Even with the injuries we had, we didn't play well. Slaughtneil are that good, but we were awful.

“From a goalscoring point of view, that's something we've tried to do. To win matches against the likes of Kevin Lynch's, Banagher and Slaughtneil, you have to get to the 20-point mark.

“I don't think we've the players to get over that without scoring goals, so it is something we've tried to focus on.

“To be competitive, you have to be able to get to 20, especially the way other teams are playing. If we'd got there, we'd have beaten Kevin Lynch's in the first match.”

Lavey's Ciaran Henry clears his lines in the semi final win over Ballinascreen. Pic by Mary K Burke

Lavey hurlers will have cast envious eyes at Banagher, who have had a free run since their footballers exited the championship.

McGarvey is expecting a hard-hitting battle in Owenbeg.

“Results-wise, we might be slight favourites, but the way the games have worked out, they have an advantage coming in with three clear weeks from the semi final,” he said.

“In my time, us and Banagher have been really good games. They've won a few and we've won a few, they're always close and hard-hitting.

“They'd have a fair bit of motivation after we beat them quite comfortably in the league. I'd say that doesn't sit well with them.

“Scores are going to be lower at this time of year, it could be a war of attrition.”

Johnny's opposite number, Banagher's Ryan Lynch, is an admirer of his weekend opponents.

“Lavey is the best hurling side, they've played the best hurling I've seen all year. They've had the most amount of games in Derry probably, with playing in the Antrim league,” he said.

“I've been tipping them to people all year. They're the team in Derry that's coming, that maybe has a shot over the next few seasons of a proper crack at Slaughtneil.

The Banagher defence swarm Swatragh in the semi final. It has been a point of strength for them. Pic by Mary K Burke

“They'll be favourites, and rightly so. They give us an awful tinning in our second league game and impressed me a lot, but this will be a tight game.”

Banagher's defence is strong, conceding just over half of Lavey's total, albeit with one less championship match.

They have conceded an average of 13.8 points per game, but their scoring average is falling short of that magical 20pt mark at 17.3.

Lynch admits this has been a bit of an issue for St Mary's.

“We have yet to click or do enough damage up front to have what I would consider scoring averages for hurling matches, but defensively, the team has worked very hard,” he said.

“The guys are working hard, and while we have some very good individual defenders, they also play well together as a group.

“I'm sure our scores are not overly worrying Johnny McGarvey.”

Swatragh's strong start in the semi final had Banagher reeling. Pic by Mary K Burke

St Mary's had to dig deep to even reach this stage. At the first half water break in the semi final, they trailed Swatragh by six points.

The situation required addressing, and the players were left with no uncertainty about what was expected.

“I wouldn't say there was a tactical tweak, it was more a case of telling them exactly what we weren't happy and the boys just sorted it out themselves,” he said.

“Sean McCullagh won a ball after about 20 minutes and picked up a free, which kind of got us started a wee bit.

“I was not expecting to be six down at the first water break, so it definitely didn't look good, but we stemmed the tide and for a time, had it down to four.”

Championship Stats

Key Players

Brian Óg McGilligan (Banagher)

McGilligan's persistent threat in the semi final meant he was on hand to turn the game in their favour in the later stages.

His drive and determination are key to his side's resilience and if defending starts from the front, he is a good man to have leading the line. A real goal threat.

Fintan Bradley (Lavey)

Bradley netted the semi final's opening goal within two minutes of the throw-in and set the tone for the remainder of the game.

Comfortable in possession and a strong runner, he will cause a well-drilled Banagher defence problems. The half-forward links play well with the other forwards and creates as well as finishes.

In conclusion...

In Fintan Bradley and Brian Óg McGilligan, both sides have potential match winners, but the loss of James Crawford could leave Erin's Own short at the back.

Conditions will be key, but if Banagher can reproduce the desire shown in the semi final, they could sneak what will be a finely balanced game.

It is one that could potentially require more than the regulation sixty minutes.

VERDICT: BANAGHER

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