Táin Óg titles for Lavey, Western Gaels, and Craobh Ciaran
By Ivan Smyth
Lavey overcame Slaughtneil in an all Derry derby to emerge as the inaugural winners of the U17 Táin Óg Division One final. It was a poignant afternoon for the winners with 1993 All Ireland winning footballer Colm McGurk remembered after he passed away last month. McGurk was in charge of this U17 team until his untimely passing last month as his club produced a gritty display that Lavey’s leading light would have been proud of.
The winners were made to work hard for this win as they faced the powerhouse of Slaughtneil. In fact it was Slaughtneil who led at half time by 1-13 to 0-09 with Barney Cassidy’s goal proving to be a key difference maker as Slaughtneil made effective use of the elements.
However, with the wind at their backs in the second half Lavey seized control as two quickfire goals changed the complexion of this game. Conor Downey, son of 1993 All Ireland winning captain Henry Downey, plundered a vital goal while less than five minutes after that half time substitute Rian Collins fired in a second major which helped Lavey gain the lead.
Although they were guilty of some poor wides, Lavey pushed on although a gritty Slaughtneil side continued to battle their opponents all the way with Conor Coyle’s point scoring helping to keep his side in the contest. However, Lavey possessed the greater array of scoring threats on the day as Rian Collins shot 1-1 off the bench while fellow half time sub Ronan Birt made a noticeable impact on the second half.
With Eoin Scullion arrowing over some important scores and captain Charlie Curley popping up to fire over a vital point, Lavey possessed enough quality to edge past their determined opponents.
Upon accepting the cup, captain Curley paid tribute to the late Colm McGurk, a sentiment Lavey Minor manager Martin Convery echoed when he spoke to GAA.ie.
“This was Colm’s team. He put so much hard work in to the club over the years and he was a great role model for everyone coming through. Colm was involved in the Derry Hurling Development Committee and he wanted the boys to get more games. He always wanted to ensure a fixture was fulfilled. If we only had 15 players then he was of the belief that we should go and play. Colm knew that you cannot improve unless you are playing matches.”
With eight teams in the Derry Minor Hurling Championship, the competition will be run on a knockout basis. Convery believes that this competition was useful for his side as they aim for county glory.
“In the quarter final we could draw Slaughtneil again so we have to be ready to go when we get the draw done. I think the positive for both teams is that they got a really good competitive match that went down to the wire. It’s brilliant reparation for both teams going forward in to the Championship.”
“With this competition, we are not playing teams that we would be familiar with all the time so that can only be a help to lads. You meet different teams and build up some contacts so that if you ever need a game going forward you can reach out to another club you played and see can you arrange a challenge match.”
Meanwhile, in the Division Three league final, Western Gaels from Sligo overcame Monaghan outfit Carrickmacross 4-20 to 3-11 in a free flowing contest. Similar to the Division One contest, the wind played an important role in this game with Carrickmacross leading at half time as Liam Mohan and Dylan Connolly grabbed first half goals for the Monaghan outfit.
Carrickmacross’ third major came through Thomas Sheridan but in the second half it was the West Sligo outfit who took charge. Aided by a strong breeze and a number of fine showings around the park, theywrestled control of this tie. Ciaran Keenan scored his side’s second and fourth goals with the attacker ending the final on a personal tally of 2-8.
This was a family affair for the Sligo side with the Tuffy brothers – Luke, Rory and Eoin all starting. Luke grabbed his side’s third goal with the corner forward producing a lively display. Eoin recently captained the Sligo U16 football team that claimed the Fr Manning Cup. The Sheridan brothers – Michael and Thomas also both notched important scores in the second half.
With captain Darragh Bourke outstanding at centre back, the Western Gaels defence shipped only 1-3 in the concluding period of play while with Keenan on top form up front, the Sligo side produced a scintillating second half to secure the honours.
Keenan, Adam Kearns, Eoghan Durkan, Thomas Sheridan, Neil Kelly and Conor Lang were also part of Sligo’s victorious Celtic Challenge squad this year. Western Gaels manager Pat Flynn states that the extra games have helped to sharpen his side.
“It is great experience for the players. It’s important to get games and we know the importance of getting games regularly. In fairness we fielded every game at U13, 15 and 17 level. We would have had six games to play to get to this final. We beat Lisbellaw in the semi final to get here so we were meeting new teams along the way and getting used to different styles.”
Craobh Ciaran of Armagh overcame Mayo side St. Ciaran’s in the Division Four final. A Paddy Lynch hat trick of goals proved instrumental in Craobh Chiarain’s win. The star forward finished with 3-2 to his name. The winners were indebted to a fast start as they led 3-8 to 0-7 at half time in Belleek, Fermanagh.
St. Ciaran’s produced a spirited second half display as they struck for three second half goals through Oisin Duffy, Michael Gough and Declan Duffy. Sean McGee, Matthew Connor and Niall Peoples also fired over some fine scores.
Since St Ciaran’s is a new club, an amalgamation of Ballina Stephenites, Caiseal Gaels and Ballyvary, the Tain Og League has provided a great opportunity for the players to get extra games, to gel together and get used to playing with each other.
Meanwhile, this competition has proved useful for Craobh Ciaran as they prepare for the commencement of their Championship campaign with their players getting some much needed competitive games under their belts.
With Rory Grimes and Liam Farrell picking off eight points between them, the Armagh side were in control from the opening stages. Goalkeeper and joint captain Dermot Hughes’ puckouts were important for the winners as they dominated the middle third for much of this encounter.
With Cian Hughes solid at the back and Conor Fox industrious Craobh Ciaran were in control throughout with Liam Farrell and Rory Grimes picking off some excellent scores as they proved lethal off of breaking ball. Meanwhile, Paddy Lynch starred with 3-2 as joint captains Dermot Hughes and Liam Farrell were able to lift silverware after a strong team display.