Carr driven to prove Down doubters wrong
The prospect of meeting the two teams who have been the major forces in Ulster since the dawn of the new millennium is currently serving as a huge incentive for a Down team desperate to regain self-esteem.
Ross Carr's outfit will travel to meet Tyrone in their opening provincial championship match and if they successfully negotiate what will be a formidable hurdle in Omagh, then they could well come face to face with Armagh.
The orchard county are due to meet the winners of the Antrim v Cavan preliminary tie in the quarter-finals and the victors here will then oppose Down. And Carr already acknowledges that speculation is in overdrive - without his team getting a mention.
"Everyone is maintaining that Tyrone will be playing Armagh in the semi-final but that suits us down to the ground," states Carr whose side just failed to gain promotion to Division Two of the National League.
While Tyrone await the return to full fitness of Owen Mulligan, Carr is resigned to being without Declan Rooney and Ciaran McGovern and is keeping his fingers crossed that he will not be stripped of any more personnel between now and June 8th, the date of their Red Hands assignment.
"The next few weeks will be a very dangerous period," insists Carr, "Obviously players are involved with their clubs and I admit that I fear going to training and learning that we might have another casualty."
Last year Monaghan launched their euphoric surge into the All Ireland semi-finals by overcoming Down at Newry and then Meath added insult to injury by shunting the Mournemen out of the All Ireland Qualifiers.
"Those matches are still fresh in our memories and we don't want a repetition of such results. I feel we have the skill and the attitude to make an impact in the Ulster series," asserts Carr.
With Ambrose Rodgers dovetailing between midfield and centrethreequarters, his own son Aidan back in the frame and Daniel Hughes in a rich vein of form, the Down manager has options up front.
"We scored well in a number of games but maybe we gave away too much on occasions. We can't let that happen against Tyrone. They are looking much stronger now and home advantage will help them," admits Carr.
Yet, in talking up the opposition, he points out that Down are seventy minutes away from a place in the Ulster semi-finals.
"That's the challenge for us. We know that if we can get past Tyrone it will be a big fillip for our self-confidence and character. But although we know the carrots that are on the horizon, we will focus totally on the game against Tyrone. It's all down to us producing the goods on the day and showing that are capable of dealing with what is thrown at us," adds Carr.