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All Ireland Qualifiers: No room for excuses as Down face Longford

Danny Hughes takes no comfort from being one of the few Down players to emerge with their reputations unscathed following the team’s eclipse by Tyrone in last month’s Ulster Championship semi-final.

Hughes, eight years in the side and still desperately keen to get his hands on a provincial medal, acknowledges that Tyrone’s claustrophobic second-half tactics denied the Mourne side space and time in which to mount a recovery mission after they had initially appeared capable of bossing the game in a scintillating opening spell.

And the Newry accountant insists that it is now all the more imperative that Down step up to the mark smartly when they confront Longford in the second round of the Qualifiers at Pairc Esler tomorrow.

“We prepared well for the Tyrone game, but we were eased out of it in the second-half,” said Hughes.

“We looked good in the opening 20 minutes when everything went right for us, but we lost our way after the break. Maybe if a late goal chance had gone into the net it would have helped us, but that’s only speculation.”

Tomorrow James McCartan’s side confront a Longford outfit who stunned Mayo in the opening round of the Qualifiers and who have been responding well to the promptings of former Kildare player Glenn Ryan who has made quite an impact as manager.

Hughes, aware that Down have now lost two of their last three competitive matches, believes that fans might become disillusioned if the team fails against the midlanders and that is something he does not want to see.

“This is a huge game for us, a game that can get our season back on track. We have won promotion to Division One and they are in Division Three,” added Hughes.

“We are at home and we have that good win over Donegal in the Championship under our belts. There can be no excuses.”

Down boss McCartan will look to the quality of skipper Ambrose Rogers, Benny Coulter, Martin Clarke and of course the hugely consistent Hughes to underpin his side’s efforts to make it into round three.

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