Kilcoo's Conor Laverty is the ultimate club-man
By John Harrington
Conor Laverty’s commitment to the Kilcoo cause could never be questioned.
Not only is he the senior team captain and star player, he also coaches the club’s U-8 and U-16 teams.
He works in Dublin as Trinity College’s GAA Development Officer, but there was never a chance he would relocate to the big smoke and join a club there.
Instead he commutes for three hours every day to and from Dublin and is happy to do so if it means still calling Kilcoo home.
His willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for the club was apparent from a very young age.
Not content with starring on juvenile teams in his youth, he also managed the club’s U-12 side when he was just 16 and promptly led them to a county title.
If it seems strange to you that a teenager would be keen to coach a group of youngsters just a few years younger than him, it doesn’t to Laverty.
“It was just we were trying to get young coaches in place and trying to get the right people in charge of the teams with the right attitude and the desire and vision of where we wanted our club to go to and thankfully it's paid off,” he says.
“For me that's the most important thing in a club for current players and past players to put back in and the way I look at it is that someone done it for me and gave me the opportunity to be part of this team and this club so it's only about right that we give back our time.
“And you do enjoy it, it's something you love doing. We're only a small village so everyone needs to pull together and that's what's working so well for us.”
Giving the best of himself to his club means so much to Laverty that he decided to step away from inter-county football with Down this year.
Considering he was team-captain in 2015, it was a decision the 31-year-old didn’t take lightly, but also one he doesn’t regret.
“Yeah, probably just with a young family and that I just wanted to really concentrate on the club for the next few years because you only have a short spell of playing days and I really wanted to give it my full effort to the club,” he explains.
“This is probably the first year in five or six years I haven't been playing with the county. It was great. I have a young family and I could spend a bit more time with them.
“I also took the under-8s and Under-16s, I had been taking them before too but it just made it very difficult to do both when I was playing with Down.
“When your club is at the top level you have to be training equally as much and preparing equally as well.
“The only difference I found was travel, you still have to go do your gym three times weekly and do your recovery and pre-hab. The only difference was down the road and you are there.”
No longer playing inter-county football hasn’t left that much of a gulf in his sporting life because Kilcoo are an elite outfit in their own right.
They’ll contest Sunday’s AIB Ulster Club Senior Football Final against Derry champions Slaughtneil, and do so with an impressive record of five county titles in a row behind them.
“I would go as far as saying that this current Kilcoo panel is…equally and if not above what a lot of county teams are,” says Laverty.
“It come down to the players, the management, and the mind-set and commitment of the group as a whole They are a very driven bunch of players.
“We know that we're very lucky to be so successful, we also know that we've worked very hard to get where we are. as a group we have an ambition and a vision of where we want to go and we're very driven towards that.”
Laverty’s contribution to Kilcoo football looks like it will carry into another generation because his three sons are already following him down the same path.
“Yeah I've three wee boys, one at 5, one at two and a half and a wee man who was just one last week,” says Laverty.
“The two older lads, the oldest lad in particular, is football mad so he understands (what it's all about) but he's going to have to come to a fair reality check some day because he's five and every year we win a championship so he's going to have to understand that you just don't win senior championships every year that you live.
“But it's great and being successful does help with the underage and that because they become accustomed to seeing you winning trophies and hopefully they grow up and that's the expectation and that's where you're at and what you want to do so that's the dream they want to live.”