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All Ireland Qualifiers: Mournemen can add to Offaly agony

There's little danger of Down taking Offaly for granted when they meet in Tullamore.

But for referee Martin Sludden Louth would have claimed their first Leinster title in 53 years at Croke Park last Sunday.

And yet they went into that game the rank outsiders, written off by everyone bar their own fanatical supporters.

Down boss James McCartan has been around long enough to appreciate the fickle nature of sport.

Victory over Longford in Pairc Esler was a significant step in their football rehabilitation after losing out to Tyrone in the championship.

It was a potential banana skin, but the Mourne men coped and McCartan was understandably pleased.

“I would have settled for a one point victory over Longford and the same goes for the game against Offaly,” he said.

“Few teams win matches by huge scores.

“You only have to look back to last year and see just how close Antrim got to Kerry.

“It’s virtually impossible to dominate a game from start to finish, but what pleased me last weekend was that even when Longford were on top, we still managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over.”

Down, after that championship hiccup against Tyrone, are now building up a certain momentum as they move effortlessly through the qualifiers.

It’s something of a role reversal in that two seasons ago Down beat Tyrone in the championship after a replay, but Tyrone it was who eased their way through the qualifiers before lifting the Sam Maguire for the third time.

In the wake of Down’s championship defeat by Tyrone last month, manager McCartan insisted the team must get back to playing with the commitment and enthusiasm so evident against Donegal.

They now appear to be close to achieving that on the evidence of their display against Longford.

Last time out Offaly overcame Waterford in the qualifiers by five points.

John Coughlan again looked a quality midfielder on his return from suspension and Down’s defence cannot afford to be anything less than vigilant against players the quality of Ciaran McManus and Niall McNamee.

Belfast Telegraph

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