By Shaun Casey
THIS season, Clann Éireann decided to enter a team into Division 3B of the Armagh league and the Junior Championship.
It’s to create a pathway for the younger players in the club, who aren’t ready to make the breakthrough at senior level just yet but are good enough for competitive action.
It’s been a success so far, with both the senior and junior teams performing well, but it brings its own challenges as well. “It changes the dynamic massively in terms of trying to manage the squad,” said senior manager Ruairi Lavery, now in his second season in charge.
“The idea behind it is that we’ve had big numbers coming through at underage, which is a great situation to be in, but it can be challenging. You want guys to get as much competitive football as possible so that’s been a big change for us.
“It’s been going really well. That started with the fact that Brian Mallon and Stephen McAreavey, who would have been part of the first team’s management team last year, they stepped up to take the management role.
“We very much see it, while it’s two teams, we see it as one group. When we train, we train together, meetings, everything that we’re trying to implement in the first team, we’re trying to replicate in the seconds team.
“It’s not two separate management teams, it’s one group and everything that we’re trying to do with the Division 1A team, we’re trying to filter that right down and that Division 3B team becomes the pathway for the young players coming through.
“Both teams are going fairly well in the league at the minute, and it really is helping at training in terms of the intensity and the competition for places. It’s gone really well so far.”
Clann Éireann lead the way at the top of Division 1A, joined on 13 points by Killeavy and Madden, having lost just twice this season.
“It’s one game at a time and that’s the way we’ve looked at it,” added Lavery. “Fortunately, we have been able to build a bit of momentum and while we have been working with a smaller squad, everybody is contributing.
“We’re getting a real impact off the bench, and we can use the whole squad to keep everybody fresh but also keep the momentum going. Every game we’ve played, we’ve been in it. Where we’ve dropped points, we feel that we should have closed those games out.”