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Down are aiming for decider as they focus on Meath

By John Campbell

Not so very long ago Down hurling teams were comprised of players from the three Ards peninsula clubs – Ballygalget, Ballycran and Portaferry.

But it is an indication of the growth of the sport within the county that current boss Gerard Monan is now in charge of a line-up that includes a number of 'non-Ards' players who are making a significant contribution to the team's progress.

Unbeaten Down will face Meath at Ballycran on Sunday and victory in this game would book their passage into the divisional decider and perhaps a place in Division 2A.

And while Monan is conscious that his more experienced players such as Sean Ennis, Conor Woods, Stephen Keith and Patrick Hughes have been leading the way to date, the input of those from the wider county is proving significant.

Donal Hughes (Bredagh), Paul Sheehan (Newry Shamrocks), Ryan Branagan (Clonduff) and Michael Turley (O'Donovan Rossa) are among the contingent which is lending a fresh flavour to the Down side.

Not only have Down remained unbeaten in four games but they have totted up some impressive scores in the process with Sheehan in particular showing fine form.

Monan, while conscious that Meath are always a particularly "sticky" side against which to play, suggests that his team's current confidence and the fact that the match is at Ballycran could tip the scales in their favour.

"I am glad that this match is at home because we might get a bit of vocal backing," observes Monan.

"In order to improve as a side we have to be playing at the best possible level we can and that's why I feel it is important that we should get promotion.

"We won the Christy Ring Cup last year and we are continuing to improve but we have to keep on challenging ourselves. Meath are a sticky side who play it fast and hard."

Monan has not been afraid to give players their chance and his bold selection policy has been vindicated especially now that two of Down's most high-profile players Gareth 'Magic' Johnston and Paul Braniff are unavailable.

"We have to get on with it and hopefully we will take a step further on Sunday. That would be a good boost for us," adds Monan.

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