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Club after Croke for Down stars

By John Campbell

Many of Down’s top footballers will find themselves in direct opposition when the SFC gets up and running this evening.

Men who graced Croke Park last weekend find themselves back on club duty, facing another championship campaign and with it the inevitable joys and heartbreak.

The surprise packets of last season Kilcoo, cross swords with Downpatrick in Castlewellan on Sunday afternoon.

And the greater enterprise and invention of the Devlins, Paul and Sean, along with Conor Laverty and Niall Morgan, should see them progress.

The second game in Castlewellan on Sunday afternoon (5pm), sees Burren powered by Kevin McKernan, Daniel McCartan and Declan Rooney against Dan Gordon’s Loughinisland.

This is a repeat of last season’s county final won by Kilcoo and it’s difficult to see anything other than a similar outcome.

Newcastle is the venue on Sunday evening for the clash of Longstone and Leitrim.

The return of the stylish Liam Doyle after a long lay-off through injury is a massive boost for Leitrim.

Doyle himself would be the first to admit that Leitrim are far from being a one man team and in Paul Burns, Pearse McCartan, Aidan O’Prey and Aidan Brown they have some very accomplished players.

Longstone will be hoping both Ambrose Rogers and Mark

Poland can carry on where they left off in Croke Park against Kerry.

Saval is the venue on Saturday night for an attractive double header.

An Riocht, powered by county players Brendan McVeigh, James Colgan and the Clarke brothers John and Martin, cross swords with Clonduff (7.30pm), while in the curtain raiser, Benny Coulter, Conor Garvey and Ronan Sexton will spearhead the Mayobridge challenge against Warrenpoint (7.30pm).

Mayobridge, joint leaders in Division One, look too well equipped for a Warrenpoint side currently fifth in Division Two after being relegated last season.

It promises to be a feast of football, but one man in particular will be glad when it’s all over.

Down boss James McCartan will have his fingers crossed, praying that his county players come throught unscathed, mindful of a certain game against Kildare on August 29.

“We’ve been relatively free of injuries in recent weeks and hopefully that will remain the case over the weekend,” he said.

“It’s a worrying time for players and management alike.

“It would be great if it was Monday morning and everyone had come through unscathed, but it’s one of those things we have no control over.”

It’s ironic that as Down step up their pursuit of a sixth All Ireland title, Kildare, the side barring their place to the final, are managed by an Armagh legend Kieran McGeeney, a former pupil of Abbey CBS Newry.

Down have certainly never been short of great support when Sam Maguire is there to be won and shortly, big match tickets will be on sale at the usual outlets.

Down SFC: Castlewellan v Bryansford, Mayobridge v Warrenpoint, An Riocht v Clonduff, Ballymartin v Saval, Downpatrick v Kilcoo, Burren v Loughinisland, Leitrim v Longstone.

Belfast Telegraph

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