Joe Kernan: Mournemen ready to lay Down a marker
When Down strung together some decent performances to win the Gaelic Life Dr McKenna Cup earlier this year, there were many people who concluded that this was a false dawn.
After all, Down have become accustomed to being cast in the role of perennial under-achievers.
But when the Mourne side came within touching distance of promotion from Division Three in the National League — they were the authors of their own misfortune in the end particularly after that defeat by Leitrim — they began to gain a rather higher level of credibility.
Today, Ross Carr's side not only enjoy even more respect but are viable candidates to land the Ulster Senior Football Championship.
They will go in against Armagh in next Sunday's semi-final conscious that their two games in the Championship to date against Tyrone will have benefited them enormously in terms of confidence, strategy and togetherness.
When Down drew at Healy Park, Omagh earlier this month, we all thought they had missed the boat.
But their extra-time victory in the replay nonetheless underlined that there is inherent character and resolve within this Down side.
Ross Carr and D J Kane may have their problems with their own suspensions of late but this has certainly not deflected them from sticking to their task of trying to reclaim some of the glory that Down has sampled in past decades.
I admire the management's commitment and resilience and I have no doubt that the players will bring similar qualities to the table against Armagh who would appear to have been made favourites.
Under new manager Peter McDonnell, Armagh had a topsy-turvy National League campaign and looked adequate in overcoming Cavan in their opening Championship match.
But they gave the clear impression that they have much more left in the tank and I think they will certainly need this against a Down side who are very fired-up just now.
I have been in Newry within the last few days and although we are in difficult financial times and people have their problems, there are still smiling faces everywhere in the expectation that Down will put one over on their neighbours when they meet on Sunday.