Kielt wary of a tricky opener against Down
When Mayo humbled neighbours Galway earlier this month in the first round of the Connacht Senior Football Championship, the reverberations were felt as far away as Derry – and with good reason.
The gulf between Division One frontrunners Mayo and the Tribesmen, who had laboured for the most part in Division Two, was vividly illustrated, and nowhere was this digested more thoroughly than within the Oak Leaf county.
On Sunday, Brian McIver's side will step into the championship arena for the first time this year to face Down having just gained promotion to Division Two and won their divisional final against Westmeath.
But this dual achievement is not being allowed to cloud the fact that for the past three years James McCartan's side have been plying their trade in the top tier and reached the All Ireland final in 2010.
Defender Charlie Kielt, who like his colleagues has endured bad days at the office in a championship context, firmly believes that Mayo's demolition of Galway must be taken as a barometer of the divisional divide.
"I can only hope that what happened in that game is not going to be replicated at Celtic Park on Sunday," reflects Kielt.
"It looked like men against boys to be honest. The TV pundits were analysing the game and they were right, the difference seems to be that if you make a mistake, the teams in Division One will punish you very, very quickly.
"Through the games we've played this year, we maybe got off with a few mistakes, somebody maybe kicked a wide or even a point, whereas the top teams will just run through you and stick the ball in the net. That's the way it is at the top level."
Down may have suffered relegation but Kielt, a dental surgeon based not too many goal-kicks away from Celtic Park, is adamant that Down's familiarity with top-bracket football will cushion their strategy for Sunday's contest.
" When you're playing Dublin, Tyrone, Kerry, those teams, week in and week out, it's going to be tough on your resources and Down put up a good fist of it this year," states Kielt.
"They've been in that top tier for the past few years and they've a very experienced panel. As well as reaching the 2010 All-Ireland final, they were in the Ulster final last year. I think Down will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of coming to us to be honest."
Kielt retains vivid memories of last year's truncated championship involvement – he hesitates to use the word campaign – when Donegal proved Derry's masters at Ballybofey before lowly Longford added insult to injury in the qualifiers.
"I do have to mention that we had a horrible run with injuries last year. The squad was depleted by the time the championship came round with maybe ten or twelve players out. Our manager then John Brennan did his level best but the odds were stacked against him.
"This year has seen a totally fresh approach, as you would get with any new manager, and it's gone well so far. The mood in the camp's good and that comes from winning games," states Kielt.