COMMENT: Blackpool-bound Shayne Lavery was making his Irish League mark at 15

Ask those with an insider’s insight at Linfield about Blackpool-bound Shayne Lavery and the conversation is peppered with plaudits for his humility, drive and mental strength...on top of the obvious talent.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 6:35 pm

Those hidden characteristics, impossible to measure by the same metrics as the goals and glory of Lavery’s two-year legacy at Linfield stand fundamental to a journey in which the Northern Ireland international had to return home to rebuild before securing his second shot at full-time football in England.

Although significantly shaped by his experiences in Linfield blue, not least the increased resolve having managed to shine under the intense spotlight of Windsor Park expectations, that crucial combination of steel and silk has been evident in Lavery from his first steps into Irish League life.

Back in April 2014 a teenage Lavery, then just 15 years old, stepped out on the final stage of Irish League football’s biggest club youth tournament and grabbed the moment.

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Shayne Lavery helping Portadown Thirds to trophy glory in 2014.
Shayne Lavery helping Portadown Thirds to trophy glory in 2014.

The under 18s’ Harry Cavan Youth Challenge Cup final at Mourneview Park was won by Portadown Thirds against a Crusaders Colts side that included in Gavin Whyte and Cameron Stewart, respectively, a future Northern Ireland international and established Irish League presence.

Lavery had been promoted from the club’s Portadown Youth set-up thanks to a talent impossible to ignore despite his opponents having the advantage in terms of years and physicality.

Lavery finished with the ‘Man-of-the-Match’ award, essentially his final act of note with Portadown before signing with Mid-Ulster rivals Glenavon and providing an assist in the following season’s Harry Cavan Youth Challenge Cup final for the rare privilege of back-to-back winner’s medals across two different clubs.

Coaching staff who worked with Lavery in those early years were impressed at the balance of proving so unassuming off the field but fearless on it, relishing the chance to embrace every challenge.

Lavery has experienced numerous significant moments since that April night under the Lurgan floodlights but with every step rooted in those same fundamentals.

A look at the teamsheets from those youth finals, at so many names once considered some of our brightest prospects now long-forgotten, will show just how difficult the transition can be from potential to proven talent.

It is testament to Lavery’s inner resolve that he was able to rise above the ranks and earn his initial move to Everton - then have the drive to thrive with Linfield as a platform on which to reclaim that prized shot in England now at Blackpool.


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