Laverty going the extra mile to inspire Kilcoo
IF there is an inch of the Dublin-Newry motorway that Conor Laverty doesn't know like the back of his hand it would be a surprise.
He lives in the heart of Down football country but 18 months ago got a job in Dublin and now commutes daily to Trinity College, where he is the full-time GAA development officer.
A livewire attacker, his commute regularly includes dashing back up the road to inter-county training. But this winter it is his club Kilcoo that has been Laverty's daily compass, and he's not complaining.
"It's a great problem to have," he insists. "It's not that bad a commute actually, I can get to Trinity in an hour and 20 minutes.
"Anyway this is something you'd never dream about, that you'd still be playing with the club at this time of year and getting ready for the Ulster final."
Laverty's energy off the pitch is infectious. He previously worked for nearly a decade as a schools coach for the Down County Board, and football is clearly more than just a job to him.
Kilcoo is situated on the road between the Down football strongholds of Mayobridge and Bryansford, at a scenic spot at the foot of the Mournes.
"It's a very small village, we've a football field and a church, that's about it," Laverty explains. "But we have really good facilities."
While tomorrow's opponents Crossmaglen Rangers are looking for a 10th provincial title, Kilcoo are debut finalists in only their second Ulster campaign.
They caused a massive upset by knocking out former champions St Gall's in their semi-final but their big breakthrough was their Down title in 2009, their first in 72 years.
"We're a very different team now from 2009," says Laverty. "The club has had a lot of underage success over the last 10 years and those players are coming through now."
In their only previous Ulster voyage, the club went out to Loup of Derry in the quarter-finals, by the narrowest of margins. They had a man sent off that day, something that was also a feature of their shock defeat of Gall's, so they have a reputation for toughing out the hard yards.
"Crossmaglen have quality and experience all over the field and we know that it is going to take all our concentration for the full 60 minutes," Laverty says. "They are famous for the way they see out their games.
"We were underdogs going in against St Gall's. We went a man down to Gall's and came back at them and maybe that surprised people but our team spirit is our big strength.
"We're just going to have to show it, and perform to our best now, like never before, but why not? This is a fantastic opportunity and challenge for us."