Blotting out Ruairi Canavan and Conor Cush was crucial: Down U20 boss Conor Laverty

Conor Laverty during Wednesday night's U20 clash between Down and Tyrone Picture: Oliver McVeigh
Conor Laverty during Wednesday night's U20 clash between Down and Tyrone Picture: Oliver McVeigh

CONOR Laverty’s meticulous preparation paid off in spectacular fashion as his exciting Down side shocked All-Ireland U20 champions Tyrone at Healy Park.

But the Mourne boss handed all the praise to his players, whose hunger and tenacity proved too hot for the title-holders to handle.

The Red Hands started with five of last year’s triumphant team, including ace attackers Ruairi Canavan and Conor Cush, bit a heroic defensive effort blunted a star-studded home forward division, with the outstanding Patrick McCarthy holding Canavan scoreless from play.

“With Ruairi Canavan and Conor Cush, you have probably two of the best young players in the country in the Tyrone forward line.

“So we knew that they were going to pose a threat to us, but we had a lot of work done,” said Laverty.

“And Paddy McCarthy, Ryan Magill and Finn Murdock, I thought they were brilliant.”

First half goals from Oisin Savage and Jason Morgan gave Down a cushion, and a six points interval lead that they defended with vigour and discipline.

“I was very proud of the lads’ game management. I thought they controlled the tempo of the game very well, and for such young lads, they were very composed in the heat of the battle.”

Laverty praised the dedication of his extended squad in terms of the weeks of hard work they put in as they prepared to take on the title favourites on their own patch.

“The lads have been super. They have been going from early January, a couple of times a week.

“They have a lot of tough sessions under their belt, but they were really hungry.”

Down also had a handful of survivors from last year, when they also met Tyrone in the opening round, losing narrowly at Loughmacrory.

“We had a number of boys playing from last year as well, and it was a good battle in Loughmacrory on that day, that Tyrone got the rub of the green, and deserved to win.

“And then they went on and had a tremendous campaign.

“But we knew that there was talent in this squad, and to be fair to the lads, they have worked very, very hard over this past number of months.”

Now they have a semi-final against Monaghan to look forward to in two weeks time.

“We only looked at this game. We knew this was going to be a titanic battle. The lads will enjoy their victory, and then we’ll get back to work during the week and prepare ourselves for Monaghan.”

Laverty’s dual role as senior and U20 manager has afforded him the opportunity to strike a balance in the workload of three players who are involved with both squads – Odhran Murdock, Ryan Magill, Patrick McCarthy.

“It was a decision to take the seniors and U20s together, just for the continuity moving forward.

“And with three of the lads over-lapping, we could make sure that their best interests were always managed properly.

“We have tried to do that over this past number of weeks, giving them breaks and letting them in to different set-ups whenever the time was right.”