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Down's plan will centre on Nicholson

By John Campbell

This time last year midfield was an alien position to Scott Nicholson.

But when he was asked to step into the engine-room by his club Ballycran, he had no hesitation in answering the summons.

Having previously played in attack and acquired a reputation for his scoring prowess, becoming acclimatised to the hurly-burly of midfield action represented a new challenge for Nicholson.

Such was the composure and authority that he revealed in his new role, though, that shortly afterwards Down manager Gerard Monan formed the opinion that the Ballycran dynamo could serve his county in a similar role.

And it's his current form in the middle third of the park which fuels Monan's belief that Down can hurdle Derry in today's Ulster championship semi-final replay at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

"Scott is one of several players in the side who is proving to be extremely versatile and willing to fulfil a different brief," explains Monan.

"This helps to give us options particularly in a key area like midfield. We had a titanic battle with Derry last weekend when the game finished level and obviously midfield will be a very important area."

Even after two periods of extra-time in last Saturday's high-scoring contest, Down and Derry remained inseparable and Monan expects an equally torrid test today.

"I think both teams have a big point to make," he adds. "They each want to get a crack at Antrim in the Ulster final.

"They beat us in the postponed 2013 final and obviously we would like to get the chance to avenge that result. But our whole focus is on Derry because they will be very tough opponents."

Nicholson looks set to resume his midfield partnership with the emerging Ryan Brannigan in a Down side that boasts considerable experience in the form of Michael Ennis, Conor Woods, Conor O'Prey, James Coylea nd John McCusker.

For the energetic Nicholson, today's match represents a big personal mission.

"I would love to get the chance to play in another Ulster final," he says. "We beat Donegal in Clones and then we had to go back there to play Derry.

"Now we're going to Armagh. There are no home championship games for us this year and I think it would be a special achievement if we could win the title given these circumstances."

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