Donal O'Hare relishing chance to prove Down's Championship quality
Two years ago, Donal O'Hare made a dramatic entrance onto the Ulster Championship stage.
The Burren clubman marked his baptism in Down's colours by scoring 1-1 in a 2-12 to 1-8 win over Fermanagh at Enniskillen and since then he has been one of the first names manager James McCartan has entered on his team sheet for games.
If McCartan was impressed with O'Hare's performance at Brewster Park, then he was even more pleased with the fact that 11 players in all shared in the scoring duties.
Fast forward to today and while O'Hare will again be handed a pivotal role in attack against Tyrone on Sunday, McCartan cannot quite entertain hopes that a raft of names will figure among his scorers at Healy Park.
That's because the Mournemen have become rather too reliant on O'Hare to translate possession into points – and goals.
In two provincial championship matches last year, the lithe marksman helped himself to 1-10 – a stunning return by any standards.
In Down's shock win over Derry in their opening game, O'Hare landed 1-4 and followed this up with six points in the semi-final defeat to Donegal (0-12 to 0-9) before creating further problems for the Derry defence again when the sides met in the qualifiers, by scoring 1-4 in a match which his county lost by 0-13 to 1-5.
O'Hare can expect to come in for special attention from the Tyrone defence on Sunday but the affable forward, who is equally adept at scoring from play and frees, is looking forward to the challenge of trying to bring an Ulster title to his county for the first time in two decades.
"We were disappointed with the way in which we finished the league with defeats to Laois and Meath but since then we have been working very hard on the training ground," explains O'Hare.
"We did not want to get ahead of ourselves by thinking about promotion in the league and in the event we did not make it into Division One.
"But the Ulster Championship offers us the chance to show ourselves in a better light and we want to make the most of it."
O'Hare has been in fine form for Burren in the All County League recently and this provides encouragement for manager McCartan as he focuses on a Tyrone side that is being tipped by many to win the Ulster crown.
"We want to get the balance right for Sunday and see where that takes us," states McCartan.
"If we play to the best of our ability, we have no reason to fear anyone. We have quality in our attack and if they see enough of the ball, they have shown that they can get scores."