Down not guaranteed promotion yet, says Jim McCorry
Down are poised to take a quantum leap into Division One of the Allianz Football League - but they are reluctant to move up in the world if it is to be at the expense of another Ulster side.
Jim McCorry's buoyant team have garnered eight points from a possible 10 and if they overcome Meath tomorrow week at Pairc Esler, Newry they look certain to join the elite for the 2016 competition.
While the wily McCorry is taking nothing for granted, he is nonetheless conscious that his team's recent inspired run has rocketed the players into the national spotlight. And while Down clearly crave Division One status, the prospect of doing so brings with it a sobering caveat.
Tyrone, Donegal and Derry are still enveloped in relegation worries in the top tier with Derry in particular staring into the relegation trap-door.
They have only one point to date and must face Dublin and league leaders Cork in their last two matches while Donegal are also under a certain amount of pressure given that they must attempt to claim the scalps of Tyrone and Mayo if they are to assure themselves of safety - and perhaps a place in the semis.
Indeed, the league is building up towards a fascinating climax given the allure of the top-level fixtures to come.
The Donegal v Tyrone contest will have a vital bearing on the relegation battle with the winners virtually assured of Division One football next year and the losers' chances of remaining in the premier sector placed in jeopardy.
Down boss McCorry, meanwhile, remains strongly focused on his team's encounter with Meath, a team known to have sabotaged the aspirations of opponents in the past in both league and championship.
"At the outset of the league, like most sides, our aim was to try and retain our status but obviously we have moved on a little but not to the stage where we are taking anything for granted," stresses McCorry.
"I said after we lost to Roscommon in our first home game that I would not be losing any sleep over the result and that was because I have faith in these Down players. Since then we have made headway but there are two big challenges to come before the league is completed and we know what's what."
In beating Galway (1-17 to 1-16) and Westmeath (2-17 to 0-10), Down racked up the kind of scores that underline their attacking philosophy and McCorry is hoping for a repeat of this sort of marksmanship against Meath.
While the relegation issue in Division One is the subject of national debate, Down remain intent on keeping their own house in order.
PRO Paul Rooney said: "We want Division One football but obviously we would not like to see another Ulster side have to make way for us.
"You just take each game as it comes and see what it brings. We have been fortunate that a number of players have hit consistently good form and that is a big plus factor as it helps to breed confidence going forward."
Kevin McKernan, Paul Devlin, Donal O'Hare, Mark Poland, Niall Madine, Luke Howard and new skipper Conor Laverty have underpinned Down's progress while Arthur McConville, Caolan Mooney and Jerome Johnston have also made contributions.
Stephen Kane has justified his selection in goal while Peter Turley and Brendan McArdle are providing a level of defiance and courage that highlight the commitment of the side as a whole.
McCorry added: "I joked before the game against Galway that I would rather have had it away because of our loss at home to Roscommon but, seriously, we are happy to have Meath at Newry. We hope that this will be a big occasion for Down football."