Kilcoo's Laverty always willing to go the extra yard

Kilcoo's Laverty always willing to go the extra yard
Down Footballer Conor Laverty is pictured ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship Final where they face Corofin of Galway on Sunday January 19th at Croke Park.. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile.

Prepare to feel inadequate.

Conor Laverty doesn’t strike you as busy, so much as a man who once made a raft of new year resolutions and actually stuck with them. Religiously. And even that does him a disservice.

This is a guy who has been multi-tasking since he was a 16-year-old, coaching Kilcoo’s U12s.

The day job is a three-hour round trip down to Trinity College where he has been the university’s GAA development officer for the last few years. Add to that a young family, a bit of sheep farming on the side and then his roles with Kilcoo as a player and an underage coach.

Now you may start to get the picture.

Oh, and he’s involved with Seamus McEnaney’s Monaghan footballers too. It was his Kilcoo team-mate Aaron Branagan who said that there isn’t anything to do in the parish aside from play football, go to Mass, and rear a few sheep.

Laverty has taken this to extremes. He does it because he loves it.

“Ach, I do,” he says. “It’s life.”

You could pick on any of those strands and lose yourself in the journey, but his role at Trinity is especially intriguing, given the institution’s heritage. The sporting centrepiece of the city-centre faculty is the cricket pitch. Gaelic games isare more of a hidden offering.

That’s literal as much as figurative. The college’s GAA players have to make their way journey all the way out to the sports ground at Santry to train, although there are other facilities being established at the Iveagh Grounds in the Crumlin/Drimnagh area, and the college has been nothing if not supportive.

“It is a struggle, because of (the) perception,” Laverty admits.

Other obstacles exist besides. Trinity don’t shave any entry points for elite athletes like other third-level institutions, but this former Down footballer has made it his business to establish a Gaelic games culture that can co-exist with cricket, rugby, and anything else.

The footballers were in Division Two of the Higher Educational leagues when he arrived.

Laverty reckoned they did no more than 11 training sessions in the year before his arrival came. They had that many clocked in the space of his first week there.

A reality check, he called it.

“We went through that year then unbeaten, won Division Two league and championship, and got Trinity promoted into Sigerson football for the first time in over 20 years. The hurlers have been fantastic, coming from Division Two, and are now competing in Fitzgibbon,” he says.

The ladies footballers climbed up from the third tier to the first before slipping down again, the camogie side has won the Fr Maher Championship and the handball club will be bolstered by the opening of their own building on campus in the coming weeks.

Laverty understands the incongruousness of a footballer from rural Down playing such a key role in the fortunes of hurling and camogie sides in the heart of Dublin city centre.

But this is clearly a man who thinks nothing of proving logic and preconceptions wrong.

Kilcoo is a tiny parish with little more than 1,000 souls giving it life, and yet they are one step away from claiming an All-Ireland senior club football title. This is no small thing on an island where rural life is under such threat and those with more are expected to achieve more — but he isn’t one for the poor mouth.

“Personally, I’m not a big believer in this whole money aspect of things. I don’t buy into it,” he says.

“If you have a bunch of players who are willing to put their lives on hold, give everything towards the one cause, the sky is the limit for them.

“In the club championships that’s very evident, whenever you get teams that don’t have the same memberships, don’t have the same funding, coming up against other opposition. I don’t see the reason why it can’t be the same at inter-county level.”

Laverty was recently quoted as as saying that Kilcoo were as good as, maybe better than, a lot of county teams.

He wasn’t happy about that. What he claims to have said is that their set-up is as good as anything he experienced in the county game.

On Sunday they will play a Corofin side chasing what would be an historic three in a row of All-Ireland titles and one that many would already argue is superior to most of the teams we will see competing for provincial titles, if not Sam Maguire, this summer.

A tall order, then, but Laverty is used to those.

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