Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Lavery to stoke the fire in Derry engine room

Whisper it softly but Derry have found a midfield partnership that could prove a match for the best of them.

Brian McIver's side have progressed almost stealthily through Division Two of the Allianz League thanks in no small measure to the combative, energetic Patsy Bradley and PJ McCloskey who form an engine-room that is currently operating at full power.

And one man who has been watching from the wings but who will now have a front-stage role in trying to curb Derry's new-found central area authority is Armagh's James Lavery.

The Maghery player may have endured a roller-coaster ride this year but he sees his team's confrontation with the buoyant Oak Leaf side on Saturday night as "absolutely crucial" to their prospects of retaining their divisional slot.

Lavery, as honest as the day is long, is self-deprecating in assessing his own season to date, yet Orchard County manager Paul Grimley sees him as crucial to the side's survival strategy.

"When we played Laois in our opening league game I was taken off after about 20 minutes and to be honest it was the right decision," admits Lavery. "I was playing rubbish, I couldn't get into the game and our poor start contributed to our loss."

But in Grimley's first victory in charge over Longford on Saturday night, Lavery's fielding especially in the second-half was crucial to Armagh's attacking strategy.

"I think that Derry are particularly strong and very competitive at midfield," he said. "They have now beaten Laois and Wexford on the bounce, they have home advantage against us and they have boys back in the frame challenging for places. All this means that we are in for a very big test."

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