James McCartan hopes for a miracle to save Down from drop
In the immediate aftermath of Down's victory over Donegal in Division Two of the Allianz Football League, any tendency to celebrate was muted by the fact that the team's last two scheduled games against Meath and Laois in the competition were due to be played away from home.
From manager James McCartan down, apprehension prevailed within the Mourne camp and was clearly well-founded following the weekend setback against Meath.
Laois now provide the opposition on Sunday in what was initially viewed as something of a formality in terms of clinching promotion and a place in the divisional final, but is now seen as a pre-championship test of nerve.
In their last three games Down have lost to Galway, overcame a strangely inaccurate Donegal by two points (1-9 to 0-10) and succumbed to Meath – hardly the kind of form designed to countenance promotion to Division One.
With Donegal, despite that unexpected reversal at Newry, and Monaghan now the frontrunners to reach the top tier, Down will be hoping for something of mathematical miracle in terms of score difference to allow them to stay in the promotion mix.
"The figures are not on our side," said Down PRO Paul Rooney.
"It will take something miraculous to happen to open the promotion door again for us, but we live in hope. The players are very determined to try and make up for the recent lapses."
The return of former skipper Ambrose Rogers after a lengthy absence, the ongoing consistency of scorer-in-chief Donal O'Hare, Kevin McKernan's work-rate in the middle third and Mark Poland's inspirational captaincy are viewed as plus-factors as Down prepare to put their best foot forward at O'Moore Park.
Manager McCartan is anxious that his team sustain their effort for the entire game against a Laois side that initially promised much, but delivered little in the league, having garnered only four points to date which leaves them on the threshold of relegation.
"Meath got 14 men behind the ball at times and hit us on the break last Saturday. We can expect that kind of stoic defence against Laois as they will be very keen to avoid relegation," states McCartan.
"I said earlier in the competition that on any given day any side is capable of beating any other side in Division Two."