Picking the winner of last Saturday’s Grand National was a lottery, akin to choosing the winner of our Monthly Merit Award for March. During last month there were National Football and Hurling Leagues, Ladies’ National Football and Camogie Leagues, Universities’ Football (male and female), Camogie, Schools’ Championships, Club Football and Hurling and Scor competitions. It was quite a month of action.

There were many fine individual performances to consider but out of the bunch leaped one player whose displays edged out the rest. The player is Mark Lynch whose scoring feats catapulted Derry into the NFL semi-finals but his leadership, as captain of the Oak Leaf team tipped the scales.

Mark Lynch receives his Belleek Vase from UGAAWA Chairman, John Martin.
Pic: © James Dunne

The big Banagher battler cracked home 1-8 against All-Ireland titleholders Dublin and 1-6 against Kildare to make last Sunday’s game with Mayo little more than a run-out.

“I can’t take the credit for Derry reaching the semi-finals,” he protests. “There were a lot of other players doing the work that led to my scores. If they hadn’t done their jobs the chances for me to score wouldn’t have been created. This award is a big surprise for me and it is, indeed, very nice to get it. I’m really honoured but, as I said, others deserved it more so.”

The 28-year-old engineer, and dual player, hasn’t had many major awards in his career but he has won a Derry SHC medal with the St Mary’s Club and he has Colleges’ Allstar trophies in his cabinet. He stepped out of county hurling after minor level and has been in the Derry senior football squad since he was 17-and-a-half years old.

Other outstanding performances during March were given by Antrim hurler Paul Shiels, Monaghan defender/attacker Dessie Mone, Fermanagh scorer-in-chief Thomas Corrigan, Donegal’s Christy Toye on his return from injury, All-Ireland Championship Handball winners Aisling Reilly (Antrim) and Johnny Woods (Tyrone) and Tyrone hurler Darren Casey.

Mark Lynch receives an engraved Belleek Living Vase, compliments of Belleek Pottery, training gear from O’Neill’s Sportswear, specially designed silver cuff links from Omeath jeweller Garrett Mallon, a sports voucher from the UGAAWA and two tickets plus overnight accommodation to the UGAAWA Banquet next November. The presentation was made at a function in Quinn’s Corner on Monday, April 7.

All photos © James Dunne