By Niall Gartland
THERE’S no shortage of potential among the Lavey hurlers in Derry, but their manager Liam Watson says that they need to show a willingness to ‘die for the jersey’ if they’re to succeed in the long-term.
They take on Sleacht Néill in their round two senior championship clash this weekend, and former Antrim and Loughgiel star Liam Watson is full of admiration for their illustrious opponents.
While he was renowned as one of the most talented forwards of his generation, he says that having the correct mindset is as important as anything else, and he believes that the Lavey hurlers have a bright future – if they want it badly enough.
Watson, who is in his first year in charge of the team, said: “Look at Sleacht Néill, it’s been an ongoing project for more than a decade and now they’re knocking on the door of an All-Ireland.
“They’ve mastered the best way of looking after their players and they die for the jersey, and that’s the most important thing that comes before everything else. If you’re willing to die for the jersey, you can go a long way in sport. That’s where I see Lavey at the moment – some of the players are at that level and some aren’t, and that’s what we’re trying to change. It’s not something you can flick a switch on, it’ll take some time.”
To their credit, Lavey snatched a draw in their round one clash against Swatragh when all hope looked lost. They reeled in a six-point deficit in a matter of minutes in a dramatic conclusion to the game, but Watson admits he was disappointed by the majority of their performance.
“There is talent in the group but we only showed that in glimpses against Swatragh. I was disappointed – don’t get me wrong it was a hard-hitting game, but I just expected a bit more from some of our players in the white heat of championship. Some of the Lavey fans were heading for the gates but at least we tried hard and got a draw.
“Again, it’s just about that never-say-die attitude and you get out what you put in, and that’s what we’re trying to instill in the players.”
Explaining how his appointment as Lavey manager came around, Watson said: “I’m friendly with the McGurks and I was at a meeting to discuss getting a new manager. They’ve a great youth set up and facilities, they just needed a platform to take things forward. I ended up coming out of the meeting as manager. I phoned my wife and said ‘I’m the manager of Lavey’ and she said ‘I thought you were just going over there for a meeting’ and I said ‘so did I’. But I love the buzz of it, Lavey’s a massive club who have done well historically in the football and we’re just hoping we can make our mark in hurling as well.”
Watson also paid tribute to Lavey legend Collie McGurk, who was laid to rest a fortnight ago long before his time.
“It was actually Collie who got me out here. I took an u-16 team three or four years ago at Lavey and we won a championship, a lot of those players are in their first year of Senior Championship now.
“Collie said at the time that he saw the passion and drive I had for the game and wanted that to be brought into the club. Collie was as wirey as you’d get but he was as honest as the day is long. I wish I’d met him a whole lot earlier because I’ve never met a nicer fella.”