Hard work pays off for Maghery warhorse James Lavery

James Lavery was in superb form for Maghery in Saturday's win over Armagh Harps. Pic by Philip Walsh.
James Lavery was in superb form for Maghery in Saturday's win over Armagh Harps. Pic by Philip Walsh.

JAMES Lavery spent the weeks leading up to Maghery’s championship opener training on his own. After missing most of the league season with a variety of injuries, the veteran midfielder set his mind on being fit for Saturday’s clash with Armagh Harps and he made it.

Not only did he make it, the Maghery warhorse produced a whistle-to-whistle performance that saw the defending champions through in a tight affair.

“Thankfully I got the 60 minutes under my belt,” he said after his club’s two-point win. His team-mates and supporters will be thankful too because it was Lavery who emerged with the ball twice in the closing stages as Harps bombarded the Maghery square with a series of high balls.

He plays a role reminiscent to what Neil Gallagher provided for Donegal in the Jim McGuinness era. He’s a ball-winner in midfield, a tower of strength in defensive situations and a useful man to push up to full-forward should the occasion demand it.

Oh yes, and it was his pass that set up the crucial Maghery goal on Saturday. Not bad for an ’oul fella.

“Maybe it’s down to my experience is coming through?” said Lavery afterwards.

“I don’t know, I missed a lot of football this year, I had a few injuries – silly wee niggles and stuff, but Finnian (Moriarty) trusted me and let me work on my own and I put in some hard work and got myself ready for this game and thankfully I got the 60 minutes under my belt.”

In opposition on Saturday night was Charlie Vernon, a man Lavery has played many hours with and against since they both broke into the Armagh midfield back in 2008/09.

“Charlie is a great player,” said Lavery.

“He has been a great servant for Armagh and he is still a great servant for Armagh Harps and he is always an absolute handful. I was glad to see the back of him out there tonight, I’ll tell you that!”

Next up for Maghery is Clann Eireann and their quarter-final is a repeat of last year’s duel at the same stage. Maghery got over the line in 2020 but Lavery admits: “They should have beat us last year.

“We’ll have to be ready for an absolute battle because, at the end of the day, we’re no Crossmaglen. Clann Eireann won’t care less about us, they’ll be coming out looking for our scalp and they’ll be coming for necks. We’ll have to meet them head-on and battle it out with them.”

There were traces of rustiness about both sides’ on Saturday and that's understandable since neither side had played competitive football since the conclusion of the league. In the end, thanks to a little luck and a lot of hard work, Maghery got over the line.

“We should have had them dead and buried but we made it hard work for ourselves,” said Lavery.

“At the start of the first half we missed a lot of chances – we hit the crossbar and we had a few bad wides and we let them back into it a wee bit.

“Harps are a good side, they have been flying all year and they’ve had great momentum so they were always going to get back into it.

“We got our goal at a crucial time at the start of the second half. They had got a couple of points then we got a goal and then a point and we should have followed it up and put the game to bed with 15 minutes left. Credit to Harps, they put their foot down and worked hard but we ground it out thank God.”