Croker decider may prove crucial for Down

While the league finals may be of little value in Division 1 and 2, for Down winning could mean playing for the Sam Maguire this year while losing may mean a return to the Tailteann Cup.
James Guinness and Odhran Murdock in action against Westmeath.James Guinness and Odhran Murdock in action against Westmeath.
James Guinness and Odhran Murdock in action against Westmeath.

Nothing is set in stone with results in the provincial championships ultimately determining what will happen for the championship, as Down boss Conor Laverty acknowledged, when it was put to him after the Clare win, that the Division 3 winners are probably going to be in Sam Maguire.

“There's a probably in there somewhere,” said Laverty with a wry smile.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

" All we can do as a squad is put our best foot forward and then be satisfied that we've done absolutely everything possible to play in Sam Maguire football this year. And that's winning the league and that's what we're wanting to do. If we get there there's a lot of permutations of what can happen but we look forward to six days time playing in Croke Park and then getting ready for the Ulster Championship.”

Standing in their way are a Westmeath side who have been performing well throughout the league campaign. There was nothing between the sides when they drew in Mullingar in the penultimate round, but the injured John Heslin made an appearance in Westmeath’s last match against Sligo – that they surprisingly lost - and he may well feature on Saturday.

But Down turned a performance that Laverty wasn’t pleased with around against Clare last week in Pairc Esler, and with players from all positions like defenders Ceilum Doherty with 1-2, Daniel Guinness and Miceal Rooney, contributing to the 3-15 tally, it’s no wonder Down are the highest scoring team in the division.

It was pleasing to see John McGovern back in the red and black on the field - albeit briefly with a black card halting his senior debut – but while that was a disappointing first showing for the Newry City FC player, Laverty is hoping for better things from McGovern.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"He's been brilliant in training. He's been flying,” he said.

"I've great trust in John. I was with him in the U20s. He's come in this past five or six weeks and been super. It was just unfortunate with the black card. You just fear that a card leads to a red in that scenario, so… That's the benefit of having a strong panel, that wee Sav [Oisin Savage] came in and was excellent. I just felt that we played with freedom today. We played on the front foot and that's what probably delighted me more than anything.”

And playing in Croke Park is always something to look forward to as well.

“I think last year when we played there in the Tailteann Cup that was some of the lads' first time being there,” said the manager.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They'll have learned from that experience. I know there's a lot of chat about not playing league finals and that, but the more you play in Croke Park and the more bigger games you play in, especially for a young squad like this, that experience is vital. So we're just delighted to be getting another opportunity to get to Croke Park to compete for silverware.”

Related topics: