THERE is business to be taken care of in Navan on Sunday, and only when the job is done will Ruairi Convery allow his mind to wander 50 odd miles down the road.
The towering former Derry forward has been part of Padraig O’Connor’s Armagh coaching team since hanging up his inter-county hurl – for a second time – last year, with the Orchardmen currently in the thick of preparations ahead of Sunday’s Division 3A final date with Roscommon.
At exactly the same time, 2pm on Sunday, the county he served with such distinction go toe-to-toe with Wicklow in the 2B final in Inniskeen.
Convery is well aware of the time clash, with his only wish that both counties are celebrating by the close of play that afternoon.
“I’ll not be on Twitter but hopefully by the time I get into the changing room and check the phone there’ll be two victories on Sunday,” says the big Swatragh man.
“It’d be great for Ulster hurling if the two teams can get promoted up a division.”
It would also rule out any possibility of Convery being put in a sticky wicket should he still be helping the Orchard County next year, not that he is looking that far down the line.
Still swinging for his club, Convery’s love for the caman code has never dimmed and when Padraig O’Connor offered him the opportunity to get involved with Armagh, it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“I didn’t know ‘Tada’ personally but I would’ve known Ruairi McGrattan in the backroom team and it came about through him. The club was playing in the Ulster championship against St Gall’s last year and Padraig had approached me before the game.
“I took a week or two to think about it but this is as close to playing again as you can get, so it was a no brainer really.
“I’ve been involved with a few camogie teams, Portglenone and Ballycastle, so getting the chance to be involved with a senior inter-county team, it’s something I’d always have been interested in.
“I just maybe didn’t expect it happen so soon, but I’m definitely enjoying it.”
Having shot to prominence as part of the Derry minor football side that swept to the All-Ireland title in 2002, Convery would go on to become an emblem of Oak Leaf hurling across the next decade and half.
Towards the end of his career, every year would be met with ‘will he, won’t he’ talk about his inter-county future. Yet back he came time and again, unable to resist the call.
Indeed, even after officially calling time on his Derry days at the start of 2018, Convery wound up having one last, unexpected hurrah – playing in goals during their Christy Ring campaign.
Many might have expected to see him involved with the Oak Leafers after the end of the playing days, and he admits the prospect of plotting against his own was in his thoughts.
“Initially, whenever Padraig phoned me, I did debate whether I was doing the right thing because I knew Derry could’ve come up against Armagh at some stage,” said Convery, a teacher at St Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt.
“I would’ve found it difficult coaching in Derry because I played hurling with probably the majority of that panel that’s there at the minute so it might’ve been a wee bit awkward, a wee bit different, managing boys I’ve played along with.
“Maybe just that change is good.”
Instead, he finds himself trying to drag the best out of men he once went to war with as Armagh and Derry became familiar foes over the course of recent years.
During a slide that saw them suffer consecutive relegations, losing a number of key players along the way, O’Connor’s men are fighting back and Convery knows just how important it is for Armagh to win at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday.
“There’s great potential there. It’s swings and roundabouts, some teams have had their day and some teams are in transition. The last couple of years I played with Derry you’d have said we were in a transition period, now you see they’re reaping the rewards and they’re into a League final as well this weekend.
“Armagh still have a good mix there, with experienced players like Ciaran Clifford, Nathan Curry, guys who were about whenever I was playing, and there’s a lot of young boys there too.
“If we do get over the line against Roscommon, it might entice a few boys to come back. The quality is there in Armagh, it’s just trying to get the best out of them and play to a system that suits those players the best.”
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