PJ Lavery knows anything is possible with Clonoe
IT'S all in the mind and, when the heads are right, anything is possible for Clonoe.
PJ Lavery has scaled the heights and plunged to the depths of despair during an incident-packed ten-year career as an O'Rahilly footballer. The glory days have brought him Tyrone Senior Championship medals in 2008 and 2013, as well as a county call-up, but there have been seasons when this famous club has fallen well short of its potential.
Anyone who witnessed the passion displayed by Clonoe over the past two weekends, when they twice came back from the dead to deny Omagh, will be in no doubt that this is a club that fully intends to commemorate its centenary year with a ninth county championship title.
"We have got the attitude instilled into us again, and we just never say die," said Lavery, reflecting on Danny McNulty's sensational stoppage time goal that gave the O'Rahilly's a last-gasp replay win over a star-studded St Enda's side: "Damian [Cassidy] has instilled that attitude into us, that we go right to the final whistle."
Last year Clonoe failed to get past the first round, beaten by neighbours Coalisland on a forgettable afternoon at Edendork. They're back at Edendork this weekend for a quarter-final tie against Carrickmore, and Lavery is hoping the hurt experienced at the venue in 2015 will create an additional motivating element.
"The Dromore game two years ago and the Fianna game last year maybe put a bit of doubt into a few of the younger lads, and maybe myself too.
"It's just about getting that spirit again. The Coalisland game knocked us back last year, but it was one of the key factors, we had to get it back. It's very hard to get that within a club, but since I have been involved, and I'm here ten years playing senior football, from day dot, we have always believed in ourselves, and that's what it's about."
Carrickmore's own fabled capacity for carving out results from impossible situations makes for a fascinating contest on Saturday afternoon: "It will be a great game. We have played Carrickmore numerous times in the championship, and they have all been big, tough battles.
"We played them a couple of years ago in the county final and we got over the line. It was a tight game, but we pulled away at the end. All being well, we can do the same this time."
Should it come down to a tight finish, both clubs are capable of striking late for a dramatic and heroic victory. Lavery believes his Clonoe side is ready for the challenge, and if any evidence is required of their mental toughness, it can be extracted from the nerve-shattering final moments of last Sunday's replay at O'Neill Park.
"It showed, we were a point down, but we battled on and ended up getting a goal. Connor McAliskey did brilliant to get the ball across, and Danny did great to finish. It was great to get over the line. We were dominating midfield in the first half, but Omagh got on top, and the penalty didn't help us.
"But with that attitude that we have, we just dug deep and drove it on."