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Conor Laverty: This is the strongest Down panel I’ve had so far

Tuesday 18th June 2024

Mourne manager happy with options as they prepare for Tailteann Cup semi-final

Manager Conor Laverty believes that the Down panel he has at his disposal is the strongest it has been under his management.

The Kilcoo man also feels that the gradual introduction of players from his two successful Ulster U20 winning teams of 2021 and 2023 has shown that opportunities will be given to young players looking to make a breakthrough at senior level.

Saturday’s team which started the Tailteann Cup quarter-final win over Wicklow contained a health sprinkling of players who won the Ulster U20 title under Laverty in 2021.

Paddy McCarthy, Odhran Murdock, Ryan Magill and Shealan Johnston while Danny Magill replaced James Guinness in the first half after the Carryduff man picked up a yellow card.

Eamonn Brown has also featured for Down this year while from the 2023 provincial win, Loughinisland’s Oisin Savage has enjoyed senior game-time this year.

Laverty has been able to lean on a strong bench this year for scores as they seek to go one better than last year in the competition.

Down racked up 1-18 against Wicklow and consistent scoring, as well as giving younger talent a chance, are two of the most pleasing aspects of the Tailteann Cup run for Laverty.

“I was happy with our points tally and I thought our bench made a massive impact coming in,” Laverty said.

“It’s probably the strongest 26 that Down have named in my time. In my two years, I think that’s the strongest panel that we’ve named.

In Down’s dead-rubber group game against Offaly, Laverty took the opportunity to give runouts to Jamie Doran and Finn Murdock from that 2023 U20 and while those players may not be in the reckoning for this weekend’s semi-final against Sligo, the Down manager believes there is merit in getting them experience at senior level for the county.

“That’s what the group stages of the competition was for, to try and blood players. Jamie Doran came in after the U20s and got game time, Finn Murdock started the last day after a good run for the U20s,” he said.

“So we felt that we got a lot of players opportunities and that’s what keeps your squad healthy, that they’re not just there for the sake of it, that they actually have opportunities to go ahead and grab a place.”