Ambrose Rogers is hoping to score what would be a significant personal first when he lines out for Down against Fermanagh in the Ulster senior football championship on Sunday.
Longstone clubman Rogers will again captain the Mournemen, but although he has led the team to success in the National League, he has yet to oversee a victory in the provincial series.
This is the seventh season for Rogers, one of the most versatile players in the side, to be part of the fabric of the Down squad, but still success remains an elusive goal in the provincial competition, just as it has done since 1994.
Rogers played at centre-half-forward when Down beat Cavan in the preliminary round in 2006 and he was Dan Gordon’s midfield partner in the subsequent loss to Donegal in the quarter-final.
He played no part in the 2007 championship before featuring at right-half-forward in a stunning first round replay win over Tyrone the following year (1-19 to 0-22), one of the best games in recent years in the Ulster series.
But disappointment was again to be Down’s lot when they lost to Armagh by 1-12 to 0-11 in the subsequent semi-final with Rogers included at centre-half-forward.
He did not play in Down’s surprise defeat to Fermanagh (0-13 to 0-10) in 2009, but was back in his more familiar role of midfield the following year when Tyrone closed out a tense game at Casement Park (0-14 to 0-10).
Last year Rogers did not play in the shock defeat to Armagh because of injury and it’s this sequence of disappointments that make the 26-year-old full-time GAA coach all the more determined to steer his county to victory on Sunday.
“It would be great to get over this first hurdle,” says Rogers.
“It is a tremendous honour for me to be leading Down and I would just love to be at the helm for an Ulster Championship win.
“We have not really done ourselves justice in the competition in recent years even though we did get to the All-Ireland final two years ago.”
Benny Coulter had initially been expected captain the team, but a serious ankle has posed a big question mark about his involvement in the Championship even should Down manage to win on Sunday.
Now Rogers reveals that the team is determined to win the game for players such as Coulter, Dan Gordon, Niall McParland, Damien Rafferty and Declan Rooney — all of whom are forced to miss out because of injury.
“The fact that we are without these players is a big blow, but you can be sure that the team which takes the field and the substitutes will be doing everything possible to take Down into the semi-finals,” said Rogers.