He knows what he wants. That’s the first thing that strikes you about Enda Downey.
It’s always about the next ball, the next game and the challenge that comes careering around the next corner.
In last year’s championship, Cavan took Derry to Kingscourt. As far away as possible. A cauldron. As it transpired, it was the game of the year.
Downey, having missed a simple – by his standards - chance from play at the end of extra-time, was presented by a monster free from 45 metres to force the blockbuster to extra, extra-time.
Drowned out by a chorus of boos, he nailed it. Total courage.
“It was a pressure kick but you just have to settle the nerves and keep it cool, thankfully it went over the bar,” Downey recalls.
Sitting in Owenbeg’s canteen, before another training session ahead of Friday’s rematch with Tyrone, Derry’s rollercoaster season, last year is irrelevant to him.
Coming through the back door, they bounced back with wins over Armagh and Fermanagh.
“We still have a point to prove after getting beat by Monaghan in the final. I know we beat Tyrone but it is a different game and a different year,” said the 17 year-old.
Derry’s campaign has been more straightforward this time around. No extra-time or drama.
In the seven weeks since their win over Cavan, they have just kept their heads down, as Downey explains.
“Our training games are very competitive and everyone is fighting for a place,” he states.
“Me, Matthew and Callum, we know each other inside out.” Enda Downey
Competitive and Lavey had always accompanied each other. His father Seamus led the attack of their All-Ireland Club winning team of 1991.
The club built their new indoor training facility, which is the envy of many and has been the building block for their recent rise back to grade A underage football.
“Our whole family played up in the garden with Da and Granda (Henry Joe),” Enda recalls of his earliest footballing memory.
“It was very competitive and there were always a few blows when it came to the end," he jokes. "That is where the competitiveness is in us (comes from). It is always good to have that to look back on.”
Last year Lavey won their second U16 championship and were close to the all-conquering Bellaghy minor team in the county final. A rivalry that will no doubt come to the fore later in the year.
On Saturday, he will be one of five from the Lavey U16 team that lost the Paul McGirr Final to Carrickmore to take the field in the Athletic Grounds.
Conor Cuddy and Daniel Fullerton from the ‘Carmen’ team will again be on the opposite corner.
James McGurk's storming performance almost turned the tables,but it was too late. Lavey left themselves too much to do.
“That is another thing to look back on but we’ll not dwell on the past, it is all about the future,” Enda states. Again he looks forward rather than into the past.
“Lavey is going well, the underage has been strong but all the players just need to push on into seniors and we’ll hopefully try and win a few senior championships, they are the ones that matter.”
With four brothers in the Downey house, all coming up through the ranks, football dominates the conversion in the house. Shea has a minor medal from 2015 and was captain the following year when Derry lost to Donegal in the final.
On Friday evening, Enda and his younger brother Callum will pack their gear bags and hook up with their cousin Matthew. All hoping to outgun Tyrone.
“Me, Matthew and Callum, we know each other inside out,” Enda concludes. “It is good to have us all in there, Granny and Granda were happy.”
Another day, another game and another challenge. For Enda Downey, it is the only one that matters. What happened in the past...is history.
Pic: Mary K Burke
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