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Lavey keep it in the family to reach St Paul's final

Enniskillen 0-5 Lavey 0-11

Matt’s away: Lavey top-scorer Matthew Downey evades a tackle by Enniskillen’s Jack Tierney
Matt’s away: Lavey top-scorer Matthew Downey evades a tackle by Enniskillen’s Jack Tierney
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

The sons of the men who won Lavey's 1991 All-Ireland club title, and backed it up with Derry's sole All-Ireland in 1993, were to the fore for Lavey as they became the first side through to the St Paul's Ulster minor tournament final at the expense of 2018 winners Enniskillen Gaels.

Matthew Downey, son of Henry, the Derry captain of 1993, top-scored with seven points, six of them from frees. Alongside him in the full-forward line, Seamus Downey's sons, Enda and Calum, were constant threats.

Patrick and James McGurk, sons of the famous Johnny who scored the winning point in the 1993 All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin, both got on the scoresheet and displayed all the attributes of smart footballers.

They needed to be too, as Enniskillen retreated into a mass defence from the start, a slight tweak to their tactical approach in defeating Antrim champions Cargin the week before.

Therefore, Lavey had to be cute. They stationed Joseph Duggan in front of the main Gaels' threat, Conor Love, and restricted him to a single pointed free all game.

They ran at the Gael's backline and drew 13 frees in the first half alone, which allowed Matthew Downey to compile four pointed frees while Enda Downey from a free played a give and go with Matthew before arrowing over to open the scoring.

Going against the wind, the Enniskillen lads limped in 0-7 to 0-1 down, with their running game not getting into the heart of the Lavey defence, kicking too much possession away that was gobbled up by Duggan as sweeper.

Under the kickout, Lavey were much superior also. Cormac Collins - a son of the renowned hurler Ollie, was a huge presence in the middle of the field alongside Jamie Duggan and they won the battle there against their opposite numbers. When the ball was broken, there were enough Lavey players stationed in the right positions to grab posession.

The scoring was level in the second half, four points apiece. But Enniskillen could only put together two consecutive points in the game once, in the 48th and 52nd minute, while a long delivery into the danger zone by Ross Bogue that might have threatened the net was parried out by Lavey goalkeeper Jack Scullion.

Gaels' hopes slipped further away despite growing into the game when full-back Josh Horan appeared to aggravate an injury and had to be taken off.

But, it has to be said, they were playing a level up here than what they experienced prior to this. Lavey may have had the wind in the first half, but they also hit seven first half wides. Enniskillen in the same period only had a Conor Love free, and two other attempts that dropped short.

For them to win, they needed to capitalise on their goal-scoring ability, but they couldn't manage against a very well drilled and organised Lavey defence.

Lavey manager Michael Hassan paid tribute to the work put into the group when he stated.

"Look, there's been some work put into these boys this past year, but this is the culmination of years of work. We got a good start, would have liked to have been three or four points further ahead at half-time."

On the ability of figuring out the Gaels' massed defence, he added: "Look, they are smart footballers and they can adapt to different scenarios. We can only do so much along the sideline and players make their own decisions on the pitch. Every one of them today were unbelievable to a man."

He also refused to leave all the praise at the Lavey breeding programme that is yielding results.

"Yes, but the rest of that team, Ryan Farrell last week, Shea O'Neill, Jamie Duggan, Cormac Collins in the middle of the field, Jack Scullion another clean sheet today, it takes a team performance and them lads all back it up. The togetherness is there," he said, before pointing out that 13 of the team are underage again next year.

They will now face the winner of the Boxing Day clash between Kilcoo and Termon, on New Year's Day.

LAVEY: J Scullion; J Duggan, S O'Neill, S Melaugh; M Duggan, R Farrell, R McGill; C Collins, J Duggan; P McGurk 0-1, J McGurk 0-1, R McGill 0-1; C Downey, E Downey 0-1, M Downey 0-7, 6f

Subs: M Kuzogi for N Duggan (60m)

ENNISKILLEN: F Quinn; C Corrigan, J Horan, J Tierney; B O'Keefe 0-1, R McDonnell, S Conway; O Hughes-Jordan, C Murphy; R McGandy, C Love 0-1f, R Bogue; J O'Donnell 0-3f, C Halligan, K Corrigan

Subs: C Hamill for R McGandy (38m), B Hamill for Conway (41m), H O'Hare for Horan (52m)

Referee: Kieran Eanetta (Omagh)

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