Swatragh v Lavey
Sunday, Ballinascreen, 5.30pm
This time last year, they were building up for a real lash at Kevin Lynch’s in a highly anticipated semi-final. The county talked of them, of the training they were at, of how this was their big push to avenge the heartbreak of 2008.
Within 15 minutes in that semi-final, the dreams were in tatters as Lynch’s cruised into yet another final.
Swatragh were left to lick their wounds and a few weeks ago when they began their championship campaign against Ballinascreen, nobody was really looking much at them and few gave the winners much hope of winning a Fr. Collins Cup.
That was until Swatragh glided over the line. They brought the physicality that matched up to what Ballinascreen put on the table, and when that battle was level, the extra quality in the green and white jerseys shone.
And so Swatragh come to face Lavey for the first time since the famous semi-final replay of 2008, when the Davitt’s had to win it twice. Six points up with a minute to go in normal time, there were cars halfway down the Feeny road. But Lavey snatched two goals to take it to extra-time. Heading into injury-time at the end of extra-time, they trailed by two to a Lavey side seeking to break a six-year barren run of their own. Then Paddy McQuillan got on the end of a long thump into the square and with the light fading, he induced delirium by pulling the ball under Pearse Magill’s sprawling dive.
“Personally I wouldn’t read much into that,” says Lavey’s county star, Paddy Henry. “If you look at it, Swatragh were beating us by two goals and we managed to force it into extra-time. We have an extra couple of years’ experience since that now, I would hope we wouldn’t be as naive.”
THAT semi-final is a fonder memory around Swatragh though but four years since reaching their first ever senior hurling championship final, Swatragh haven’t built on it. Worryingly for them, time is running out. This is their golden generation and if this generation does not lift the Fr. Collins Cup, it could be another generation or two before they’re competing at the top again.
“We’ve talked about that ourselves and we know we’re not getting any younger,” claimed a worried Ruairi Convery.
“Mickey Conway’s in his mid-30s now and myself and Conor [Quinn] are touching 30, we only have a couple more chances. If we don’t stamp our authority on the championship in the last year or two then we might not win one. Other teams maybe take it for granted, playing in finals and winning championships every year, but it would mean so much to us to win a hurling championship.”
Having lost Pearse Magill (injured) and Paddy Dillon (retired) from last year’s starting county final team, and with Cailean O’Boyle unlikely to be involved, it is a marginally weaker Lavey side now than then.
The Davitt’s will be without the suspended Michael McKenna, while Michael Warnock will miss the game while on holiday. Those aside, They are at full strength. And while Swatragh lie under the radar, Lavey could say the same. It was Slaughtneil at whom everyone looked this year, but as the league form of both they and Ballinascreen proved, league is not championship currency.
It’s anyone’s game!