Ulster Minor Hurling Tournament semi-final
Saturday, Ballinascreen, 2pm
By Michael McMullan
LAVEY take on Antrim champions Loughgiel in the Ulster Minor Hurling Championship, another step in the club’s revamp of their underage hurling structures.
The late Collie McGurk was manager of the team before his untimely death, but his fingerprints are all over the new energy within the club’s hurling teams.
It was fitting the group he managed went on to lift a first minor title since 2019 and his management team carry his hopes into the Ulster scene.
Lavey sat down about six years ago to take stock of where their senior team sat in the pecking order and changes were needed.
“It could only have went in one direction,” their joint-manager Martin Convery states. “We had to look at where we were at with senior level and needed to work from the bottom up again to develop players to be senior players. This minor team is just part of that process.”
Segdae Melaugh, Niall Duggan, Aimon Duffin and Dara Young are some of the players now into the senior grade from last year’s minor team, the first group to benefit.
Convery explains the mantra McGurk felt needed instilled in all the club’s teams and how he was a breath of fresh air to everything they were trying to change.
“No matter who you are playing against, if you have 15 players, you go and play against them,” Convery points out of McGurk’s attitude.
“This thing had settled into places where some would say: ‘we’ll not play if we don’t have our strong team,’ but Collie insisted if you have 15 players, go and play it.
“You’ll not learn anything unless you are playing the best. If you are getting a tanking, as long as you are competing, you are learning something.”
Lavey’s hurling renaissance was measured on progress rather than success. Competing with the top teams was the indicator and, invariably, any silverware would sew the seed of staying on after underage level.
Titles at u-12, u-14, u-16 and minor level followed, but there was always the emphasis on growing that progress into senior level.
“That was Sleacht Néill’s success…where they were winning at u-21 level year upon year,” Convery stresses
Lavey should’ve got more of their 2019 minor team through to senior, something they are keen to change with a more long-term approach with getting the right people involved with their teams.
Ryan Cushnahan, Darach Curley, Michael Collins, Gerard Taggart and Joe McGurk are involved with the current minors. Tom Magill, the man behind virtually all of their senior success, is back involved again.
“He still has the passion to see things done right and players playing properly,” Convery said. “It is a buzz for him and a buzz for us to have him there.”
Convery is realistic to know the challenge facing them in the shape of Loughgiel. The sides met at u-14 level and the Shamrocks have been the standout team all the way through.
“Antrim minors were very strong this year and competing in the Leinster Championship. St Louis (Ballymena) won the Mageean and have four of five of the boys hurling at this level. There is a sprinkling and Cross and Passion lads who were beat in a semi-final,” he said.
“There is never a weak team that comes out of Antrim; they are all good hurlers and know what it was about. We are definitely the underdogs, but it all on the day.”