Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Down must buck trend after Ulster final defeat

When James McCartan gathers his tired and broken Down players around him to re-focus minds, following Sunday’s Ulster Final defeat by Donegla, he will be looking to put a stop to a trend involving the six-day turnaround for losing finalists.

Down meet Tipperary on Saturday in Cusack Park, Mullingar at 4.00pm, with a place in the following weekend's All-Ireland quarter-finals at stake.

The structure was set in stone, something acknowledged by McCartan after Sunday's final when he said: “The six-day turnaround is well documented, not too many people agree with it and they’ve agreed to change it for next year. It might come too late for us but we’ve six days to turn it around.”

He continued: “We’ve a disappointed dressing room in there, we spoke about trying to re-group. It’s going to be difficult, there’s no doubt about it but we have another opportunity in six days time and Tipperary have only had one extra day which, in the past, teams would be waiting two weeks.”

After their defeat in Sunday's Leinster final, Meath boss Seamus McEnaney had appealed for his team to be granted another days' recovery, which fell on deaf ears. McEnaney fell foul of the rule in 2010 while in charge of Monaghan.

Last year, Derry were the defeated Ulster finalists, and they meekly limped out of the All-Ireland series to Kildare.

The year before, the same Leinster side knocked out Monaghan in Round Four and also had the fortune to draw Fermanagh in 2008.

In 2009 Antrim were the beaten Ulster team and they were presented with an evening in the company of Kerry in O'Connor Park, Tullamore. At the time, Kerry were in a state of confusion, with Tomás ÓSé and Colm Cooper both dropped from the starting team for having broke a curfew and gone out drinking the previous Saturday night after struggling past Sligo in Tralee.

Antrim threw everything at them, but the experience of Kerry, along with the introduction of Cooper and ÓSé as substitutes saw The Kingdom pull clear by the end.

Despite the omens, Down have a serious chance of progressing into the last eight. While most teams would have preferred to meet Clare, Tipperary would be traditionally seen as beatable.

That only tells half the story though. Since suffering relegation to division four of the National League and the departure of their coach John Evans, the Premier county have rallied under new manager Peter Creedon. A sturdy performance in defeat to Kerry in the Munster Championship was followed by a series of impressive wins over Offaly, Wexford and last weekend, Antrim.

They remain unloved by their own public, drawing a poor following to Semple Stadium for their last match despite the strides they have made since forming a separate ‘football board' and identified achievable targets.

Last year they won the All-Ireland minor Championship, defeating Dublin in the final. They will be a threat, something McCartan will be driving home.

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