GAA Football

Maghery have yet to produce an outstanding display: Shane McConville

Ciaran Higgins is one of a number of young players who have impressed for Maghery this season
Andy Watters

MAGHERY manager Shane McConville believes all teams have two outstanding performances in them every season - and he says his team haven’t produced either yet.

That must be a comforting thought as the Lurgan native prepares his Armagh senior championship winners for what is arguably the biggest game in long history of the Sean McDermott’s club.

On Sunday, they take on five in-a-row Down champions Kilcoo at Páirc Esler, Newry and a place in the Ulster Club Championship final is at stake. McConville says his players are capable of pulling off an upset win.

“I think there’s two big games in everybody, every year and I don’t think we’ve had one big game yet,” he said.

“We have two big games in us and there’s two big games left in Ulster. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”

As a clubmate and friend of former Kilcoo manager Jim McCorry, McConville followed the fortunes of ‘the Magpies’ throughout McCorry’s time with the Down side. So he is familiar with their players and their intensity and ability.

“When I was younger Jim was the club captain at St Paul’s so I would have watched Kilcoo from Jim started to mould them into the team they are now,” he said.

“I have a fair idea of what’s ahead of Maghery on Sunday. We have to come to terms with their experience in this Ulster championship and the fact that they haven’t won it just shows you how tough a competition it is.

“I have watched Kilcoo and I’ve admired them and their success, but Maghery are not, in any way, afraid of them or the other two teams [Slaughtneil and Killyclogher] either.”

This season, Maghery have been spearheaded by the experience and tenacity of Armagh skipper Aidan Forker and the likes of Stefan Forker and James Lavery who forms a formidable partnership in midfield with Ben Crealey, one of a number of talented youngsters in the side.

“Maghery are in a fantastic situation in terms of the panel they have and what I can bring on,” he said.

“Three or four of them are very unlucky that they can’t break into the starting 15. If somebody is under-performing you’d have no hesitation in making changes and that is the one thing that has carried us through this year. We’re not a 15-man team.”

Some might have expected Maghery to go off the boil after winning the club’s first-ever Gerry Fegan Cup this season. But McConville says the players quickly refocused after seeing off Cullyhanna in the county final and since then they were three-point winners over Cavan champions Ramor United.

“Myself and Kieran Rafferty have been blessed with players because I’ve never seen an attitude like it,” said McConville, who is in his first season with Maghery after four years in charge of his native St Paul’s.

“They spent a couple of days out celebrating something that they hadn’t won in a 100 years but that was it. Every man was out for training on the Wednesday night and they haven’t missed since.

“These men understand where they are and they’re very confident that it’s going to go on after Sunday. There are players there who have got a few kicks in the teeth over the years and they want to make the most of it.

“The younger players - the likes of young Crealey and Kieran Higgins - just take it in their stride and move on, but that’s a result of having really good experienced men behind them.

"All they want to do is be successful - you just need to give them a time and they’re there.”

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