Gordon and Coulter set to fire up Down
Down manager Ross Carr will place considerable faith in the versatility of two key players for Sunday's opening Bank of Ireland Ulster Football Championship clash with Cavan at Kingspan Breffni Park.
Dan Gordon and Brendan Coulter are both equally at home either at midfield or full-forward and Carr's priority will be to maximise their value to the side.
A National League campaign that yielded just a solitary point and saw them demoted to Division Three for 2008 sends Down into Sunday's contest against a backdrop of heightened pressure and even foreboding.
But Carr, in his first season as team boss, remains cautiously upbeat as his players prepare to confront a Cavan team who reached the Division Two semi-finals only to be tripped up by Roscommon.
"Some of our performances in the National League deserved more than we actually got from the games - there were occasions when we didn't get the rub of the green. We have prepared well for next Sunday and the boys are particularly keen to make it a winning start to the Championship," said Carr.
The Down boss looks certain to confirm Gordon in midfield, perhaps alongside Jack Lynch, while Coulter is likely to be positioned at full-forward where his aerial ability and opportunism could help unhinge a Cavan defence which looked vulnerable in more than one match during the league.
Coulter's penchant for snapping up crucial goals could prove an invaluable asset, particularly in a championship context where goals invariably cement morale and nurture confidence.
Gordon, who has been a constant in the Down side of late, will not only have the task of securing primary possession but will also be expected to pick off scores when possible.
The strapping midfielder, who loves to go forward, is seen as vital to Down's hopes of turning the corner following their frustrating experiences in the National League. Carr, though, is reluctant to heap responsibility on particular individuals - rather, he is looking for a concerted team effort for what he hopes will prove a first step towards a possible appearance in the Ulster final on July 15.
"We must be positive and believe in ourselves. There is talent in this side, but we need a big performance from everyone on the day. Remember, Cavan are at home and that will be a plus-factor as far as they are concerned, but we are not fearful. Indeed, we're looking forward to the match and we want to do Down supporters proud on the day," said Carr.
In the corresponding match last year, Down triumphed and the lure of back-to-back successes against the Breffni county is viewed as a huge incentive both by Carr and his players.
"We're ready for the challenge," adds Carr.