A hands across the border exercise could yet prove crucial to Dunloy’s hopes of overcoming title favourites Portumna in the All Ireland Club Hurling Championship semi-final next month.
Far from wallowing in frustration when the arctic weather threatened to undermine their preparations, Dunloy have found a valuable ally in neighbouring Derry club Lavey who have made their impressive indoor fitness arena available to the Antrim and Ulster champions.
Now, not only can Dunloy concentrate on weights sessions, gymnasium work and indoor circuits but they can even play 10-a-side practice matches there as they focus on the massive task confronting them. And joint manager Gary O’Kane believes that Lavey’s gesture in making their facilities available to Dunloy is indicative of the spirit that underpins the GAA at grassroots level.
“Obviously we would just love to be out playing matches but since this is not possible we are extremely grateful to Lavey for their help at this difficult time,” says O’Kane who won a host of honours at club and county level before calling time on his playing career.
And if Dunloy required any further motivation to add the All Ireland crown to their Antrim and Ulster titles it arrived with confirmation that long-serving forward Paddy Richmond has just won the Ulster Club Championship Player of the Year accolade.
His scoring exploits have had much to do with Dunloy’s triumphs in 2009 and along with his brother Liam, Gregory O’Kane, Alistair Elliott, Conor Cunning and Malachy Molloy he forms the experienced edge of the side. But with Kevin Molloy, Conor McKinley, Paudie Shivers, Gareth McGee, Paddy Doherty and James McKeague representing a fresh generation of talent, competition for places has seldom been keener.
Certainly Gary O’Kane and his management colleague Shane Elliott could be spoiled for choice although O’Kane stresses that: “You can never have enough skill when you’re going in against Portumna.”