The Early Years
An absence of early records restricts a full and comprehensive outline on the history of hurling in the County. Nonetheless the material which does exist offers an invaluable insight into the humble origins of the game.
This account traces, in a chronological sequence, the History of the Kevin Lynch's Hurling Club reflected in the many successes which it has enjoyed coupled with the apathy and numerous difficulties it had to overcome in the initial years.
Hurling in Derry qualifies as a tradition, that is, a custom which has been passed on from one generation to the next as it was played as far back as the 19th century.
Before the historic meeting in Thurles in 1884 hurling or a form of it was widely played in the Dungiven area. A local song relates how an unfortunate referee suffered at the hands of over zealous players in a game between Dungiven and Ballinascreen. As he was poised to throw in the ball the players, anticipating the arrival of the ball removed three of his fingers before he had time to release it.
The more important games at this time were played in the castle grounds usually around Christmas. The game at this time had an interdenominational aspect with teams from Desertmartin, Tamlaght O Crilly and Upperlands participating. With the withdrawal of support for the game by the landlords the strength of the game began to wane until it grew almost extinct. The formation of the G.A.A. saw hurling initially prosper with strong teams in Derry city, Claudy and the Foreglen. There is no reference to hurling activity in Dungiven until the arrival of Fr. McGoldrick as curate. He made stirring attempts to foster the game but with his departure the game went into decline.
Liam Hinphey took up a teaching post in the local secondary school on a temporary basis in September, 1963. In April of the following year he found some hurleys in a store in the school.
At that time there were no playing fields in the school and through the good offices of the late Joe Beatty the school used O'Cahan Park for its G.A.A. Activities. Two afternoons per week large groups of the boys from the school accompanied by Liam Hinphey and the late Paddy McGrath from Ballycastle went to O'Cahan Park where a certain amount of mayhem ensued.
This activity continued happily without any serious damage to life or limb until the summer holidays. Liam spent the next school year teaching at St. Pius X Magherafelt and returned to Dungiven in September, of 1965. In response to requests from some of the boys who had participated in the early efforts, Liam Hinphey attempted to start hurling on a more organised basis in the spring of 1966.
Two events occurred at this time which were to have far reaching effects on the game of hurling, not alone in Dungiven but nationally. Alf Murray as president put forward a five year plan for hurling which was to see at the end of the five years each County fielding a Minor team. Hurleys and sliotars were made available at subsidised rates and the Gormanston coaching courses were set up with a view to servicing the clubs with qualified coaches.Liam Hinphey
It was advantageous, and perhaps vital, to hurling in Derry that to coincide with Alf Murray's plan, Dungiven numbered among its citizens a Kilkenny man Liam Hinphey. Liam, who was brought up in Kilkenny until the age of 17, was inevitably influenced by the game which was enjoyed and played with fervour at the local James Stephen's club.
His studies at UCD coupled with his return to relatives in Magherafelt thwarted any opportunity of playing senior for his club. It was during this return to Magherafelt that Liam applied for and obtained a temporary teaching post at St. Patrick's Secondary School, Dungiven where he commenced his teaching duties in September 1963.
The chance discovery of two unopened sacks of hurling sticks in a school cupboard combined with Liam's enthusiasm and knowledge of the game in many ways pinpoints the initial revival of hurling in the County. His talents were injected into the Dungiven area at a time when Ulster as a whole was trying to bring back hurling.
Derry in particular benefited as hurling has grown from strength to strength in the County over the past twenty years. The game was assured of his continued commitment when in 1965 Liam took up a permanent teaching post at the local school.
Liam's contribution to Hurling in Dungiven as a player, manager and driving force has been prolific. Along with Colm his younger brother who lives in Dublin but who is still a fervent Kevin Lynch's supporter, they can account for Senior Club Championships in 1967, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77 and 79, along with an All Ireland Junior title in 1975.
Liam is now retired from his Post as Vice Principle of St. Patrick' High School in Dungiven where he taught for 'too many years to mention'. The Hinphey legacy is set to continue as Liam's sons Kieran, Liam and Kevin all play for the club at their respective levels.
In Derry the response to the new initiative in Hurling was enthusiastic with juvenile clubs being set up in many areas. The first Derry juvenile hurling competition saw Ogra Colmcille defeat Dungiven in the Final.
A more enlightened approach to the coaching of the game saw Dungiven emerge as the dominant club in the County.
The majority of the players at the time came from Banagher parish and this created some tension among some members of the club who saw this influx of players outside Dungiven area in some way constituting a threat to the status quo. Despite this feeling, the senior members of the committee continued to give their unstinting support to hurling.
In 1966 Dungiven beat Clady to take the School's title and subsequently qualify for the Ulster School's Championship. They reached the semi-final where they defeated Portaferry at Randalstown by 2-3 to 1-1 but were heavily defeated by Antrim champions, Glen Road CBS Belfast in the final.
Back boned by juvenile players with a leavening of senior footballers Dungiven won their first Senior Championship in 1967. The Derry juvenile and The Derry juvenile and minor teams were in the main from Dungiven and in that time won many Ulster special competitions.
The 1968 schools championship went to Dungiven for the second time when they beat Ballycastle 2-1 to 1 -2 at Ballymoney. Glen Road CBS were once again their opponents in the Ulster school championship and like the previous year heavily defeated them. In 1969 they beat Ballycastle in the final.
Furthermore they went on to capture the Ulster Schools Cup when they accounted for Banbridge in the final at Dungannon by 3 Ñ7 to 4Ñ2. This was the second encounter between the two teams since Banbridge had forced them to a replay after a draw in their first meeting at Randalstown.
Jim Ryan followed Alf Murray as president and instituted the great hurling festival Feile na nGael in 1971. The County Championship of each County converged on Thurles in July, 1971. Each club was hosted by a Tipperary club and the competition was divided into four section A,B,C,D., Dungiven based in Moneygall won section C. This was to be the start of a glorious run in Feile na nGael by Dungiven which is matched only by Glen Rovers of Cork.
In 1972 Derry won the All-Ireland Special U-16 Title with a team backboned by Dungiven players and captained by a spirited young player - Kevin Lynch. Kevin would later become patron of our club as an acknowledgement of his courageous part and subsequent death during the 1981 Hunger Strikes when 10 young men lost their lives.
In 1977 Dungiven coached by Peter Stevenson won Feile na nGael in Waterford and followed this by an even more resounding success in Kilkenny in 1978. The display of the Dungiven team on that occasion was hailed by knowledgeable Kilkenny people as being the most impressive of the entire competition.
In the mid seventies Banagher players decided to go alone and while it was a cause of deep regret to lose the services of such players as Seamus Stevenson and the McCullaghs it was realised for the long term good of the game in Dungiven and Banagher it was a good move. Dungiven's winning sequence of senior championships in the seventies was interrupted by Banagher in 1978 the only title Dungiven lost from 1972.
Kevin Lynch died on Died August 1st. 1981, after 71 Days on Hunger Strike.
The new club motto
"Misneach is Dilseacht"
"Courage and Loyalty"
reflects the qualities that he held so dear.
Kevin Lynch epitomises the spirit that embodies the great Hurling tradition in Dungiven.
Subsequent to his tragic death during the Hunger Strikes in 1981, it was fitting that the then name of the club - "St. Patrick's" was changed to "Kevin Lynch's" in his honour.
Kevin went to St. Canice's primary school and then on to St. Patrick's intermediate, both in Dungiven. Although not academically minded - always looking forward to taking his place in the family building business - he was well-liked by his teachers, respected for his sporting prowess and for his well-meant sense of humour. "Whatever devilment was going on in the school, you could lay your bottom dollar Kevin was behind it," remembers his former schoolteacher, recalling that he took great delight in getting one of his classmates, his cousin Hugh ('the biggest boy in the class - six foot one') "into trouble".
But it was all in fun - Kevin was no troublemaker, and whenever reprimanded at school, like any other lively lad, would never bear a grudge. Above all, Kevin was an outdoor person who loved to go fishing for sticklebacks in the river near his home, or off with a bunch of friends playing Gaelic.
His great passion was Gaelic games playing Gaelic football from very early on, and then taking up hurling when he was at St. Patrick's.
He excelled at both. Playing right halfback for St. Patrick's hurling club, which was representing County Derry, at the inaugural Feile na nGael held in Thurles, County Tipperary, in 1971, Kevin's performance - coming only ten days after an appendix operation - was considered a key factor in the team's victory in the four-match competition played over two days.
The following season Kevin was appointed captain of both St. Patrick's hurling team and the County Derry under-16 team which went on in that season to beat Armagh in the All Ireland under-16 final at Croke Park in Dublin. Later on, while working in England, he was a reserve for the Dungiven senior football team in the 1976 County Derry final. Kevin's team, St. Canice's, was beaten 0-9 to 0-3 by Sarsfields of Ballerin, and he is described in the match programme as "a strong player and a useful hurler".
The 80's and early 90's
The 80's and early 90's proved to be a very baron time in terms of our club's success. Several factors, including a loss of interest amongst our underage players plus the decision of the Drum based players to form a separate club. This combined with the general increase in the level of competition and hard work put in by other clubs in the County made it increasingly more difficult to maintain our previous unprecedented success.
However, it was not all doom and gloom, Kevin Lynch's managed to capture the Section 2 Title in the Feile na nGael in Croke Park in 1982. Captained by Paul Kealey, the team turned in in a masterly performance to defeat a fancied Dunloy side at our Nation Headquarters.
At senior level, we struggled to produce our senior form of previous years, competing in several County final's with no success. By the early 90's it became a priority to start a plan to revive the club from a very stagnant position.
The players and committee decided that action must be taken to bring the club back to its rightful position at the top level of Derry Hurling. At that time, and until this day a major factor in this revival was the recognition by the senior players that for the club to prosper, then they would have to play an active role both on and off the field.
It was not until 1993 until this policy began to pay of at underage level, with U-14 County success in '93 and U-12 in 1994. At senior level, the wait would be slightly longer.
In 1996 Kevin Lynch's recaptured the Senior County Title against Banagher after a wait of 7 years. Under the management of Jimmy Sweeny, the thirst for our much needed success was quenched.
The victory has sparked a rejuvenation in the overall fortune of the club, and rekindled a new passion within the people of Dungiven for the greatest game in the world.
The game proved to be an exciting exhibition of Hurling, losing by two point after squandering a five point lead in the last five minutes of the game.
In 1999 the Under 16's claimed the County cahmpionship defeating Ballinascreen in the final.The 21st Century
During the early part of the 21st century the underage activity within the club increased through the efforts of numerous individuals with Brian McGilligan, Eoin Mullan, Martin Bradley, Niall Mullan and Davy McCloskey to the fore.
In 2000 the minors, under the tutelage of Niall Mullan and Davy McCloskey, claimed the first minor club title for 18 years defeating Lavey in the final. This side then progressed through the Ulster Championship's however were defeated in the Ulster Final, by Ballygalget of Down, in terrible conditions at Ballinascreen.
In the early few years of the 21st century the senior team were unable to make the break through at championship level although the reserve side did win a junior championship in 2001. During this period the Lynch's provided several players to the successful Derry Ulster wining sides of 2000 and 2001, including Emmett and Kieran McKeever, Niall Mullan, Geoffery McGonigle and Ronan McCloskey. These players all played in the Offaly game of 2000, where Derry came within minutes of beating the former All-Ireland Champions. On the back of these performance's Kieran McKeever became the only club member ever to be nominated for a hurling All-Star
The following season, 7 Kevin Lynch's started, with a total of 13 on the panel, in the Ulster Minor County Championship win over Antrim and the All Ireland Quarter final against Galway in Croke Park. This team was managed by Liam Hinphey
The 2001 minor side repeated the success of the 2000 side and caimed the county minor title with a win over Slaughtneil. The side once again progessed throught the Ulster Championship with a quarter final win over Keady of Armagh, then they gained revenge over Ballygalet in the semi final to set up a final clash with St Gall's of Antrim.
Due to unsuitable weather conditions the game was postpnned several time and the final was eventually played on Easter Tuesday 2002.The game was once again played in terrible conditions, however the Lynch's lads emerged victoriuos in a titanic battle against St Gall's in a game which went to extra time, with the Lynch's eventually winning 3-14 to 4-9.
In 2002 the Senior began to show more promise and were defeated in the Championship semi final, although they did add the league title in 2002.
In 2003 the seniors, backboned by the successful minor sides, reclaimed the senior title after a 5 year absence by defeating Ballinascreen 3-8 to 2-10 in Banagher. The seniors then progressed to the Ulster Final by defeating Keady of Armagh in the semi final to set up a game against Ulster Kingpins Dunloy. Unfortunately the seniors didn't perform on the day and were defeated by a Dunloy side that went onto contest the All-Ireland club final.
In 2004, the U14's finished as runners up in the County Feile final. However the National Feile broke new ground and two Derry teams were invited. The young Lynch's were based in Westmeath and swept all before them and beat Boardsmill in the final before a large crowd in Navan. This victory gave the club its fifth National title, a record surpassed only by James Stephens of Kilkenny.
Latter on in 2004 the seniors reclaimed the county championship in 2004 with a 4-9 to 1-9 score line. The side's Ulster campaign was cut short in agonising fashion at the hands of Down champions by a single point.
The 2005 season proved to be a disappointing year for the Lynch's with both the seniors and U16's losing out in cruelly in their respective county finals. In 2005 the club re-launched the website after a six year absence.
The 2006 season would prove to be the most historic of the club since being founded. The 2006 season could not have got off to a better start with the U10's winning the Ulster U10 indoor championship, with this side also being awarded the Limavady Borough council youth team of the year.
The development of our own playing facilities, Kevin Lynch Park, was finished in 2006 and during the last week of July 2006 all playing members got their first opportunity to play on the new pitch in the run up to the weekend. The week climaxed in the official opening weekend of Kevin Lynch Park.
The last Sunday in July saw the opening of Kevin Lynch Park, after years of effort from the club with the like of Brian and Briege McGilligan and Eddie Friel at the forefront. The platform party for the opening ceremony consisted of the GAA president Nickey Brennan, Ulster Council president Micheal Greenan, County Chairman Seamus McCloy, Club Chairman Brian McGilligan, Camoige Chairperson Bernie O'Hara, Ulster Camioge Chairperson Belle O'Laughlin, Father Kevin McKenna PP and MP Gerry Adam's and members of the Lynch family. Treasurer Eddie Friel and club president Liam Hinphey acted as masters of ceremonies for the event. Kevin's sister Bridie officially cut the 'ribbon' on the new pitch followed by the Kevin Lynch's senior entertained the crowd with a win over 2005 All Ireland club champions James Stephen's to round off a momentous weekend.
The seniors contributed to this momentous year by reclaiming the senior title, in arguably the best county final ever seen, against fierce rivals St Mary's Banagher. The seniors run continued after they accounted of Down Champions Portaferry in the Ulster semi final to set up a final date with Cushendall of Antrim. After a titanic battle the first meeting ended with a raw with the Lynchs coming within second of claiming that elusive Senior Ulster title. In the reply fortune did not favour Kevin Lynch's with the side slumping to a narrow defeat.
Success continued in 2007 with the seniors once again claiming the Derry senior title in commanding fashion with a 2-17 to 1-11 win over St Mary's Banagher. The seniors once again progressed to the Ulster senior club final, only to be defeated narrowly by Dunloy
The U16's also won their county title with a 3-8 to 0-9 win over Slaughtniel on a perfect pitch at Drum.
The 2008 season once again proved to be a successful season for the Lynch's with several time winning county titles and other contesting county finals. The U14's again reached the Feile final and county final however were defeated on both occasions, however they did go on and win the Feile Uladh, held in Tyrone, defeating the likes of Dunloy and Lougheil along the way.
The U16's made it through to the a second county final in a row only to be defeated in controversial circumstances, in a superb exhibition of hurling by both sides, as the curtain raiser to the senior final. The seniors made it three county championships on the trot with a win over Swatragh, 1-12 to 0-12, at Celtic Park in Derry. However the seniors were unable, once again, to make it past Antrim opposition, as the fell to Cushendall in the Ulster semi final
The Lynch's also provided 5 members to the Derry U21 side which claimed the Ulster U21 title. Kevin Lynch's Mark Craig was captain, while the Lynch's also had 4 players called up to the Ulster panel.