The term ‘banana skin’ tended to surface more than once during Down’s campaign in the recent National Football League.
Down boss Carr lays it on the line for openerFORWARD GEAR: Down’s Daniel Hughes is fired up for battle tomorrow
A Cavan side that had lost their two opening games suddenly gained a respite at the Mournemen’s expense - and at Newry, too - while Limerick, then becoming increasingly engulfed in relegation worries, subsequently eased past them.
And when Tipperary then beat Down in the Division Three final after extra-time, the suspicion that the Red and Blacks are vulnerable both in terms of morale and resources heightened.
Certainly, lapses against Cavan, Limerick and Tipperary - three teams well off the radar in terms of Championship achievement - would not be viewed as particularly encouraging for an onslaught on the Ulster title, the field for which contains the reigning All Ireland champions and their neighbours from across the Blackwater who have lifted seven of the last ten provincial prizes on offer.
Down manager Ross Carr, acutely conscious of what it takes to achieve success having been an All Ireland winner twice as a player (1991 and ‘94), is nothing if not brutally honest in assessing his team’s prospects as they face in to tomorrow’s opening game against Fermangh in Enniskillen (3.30).
“Let’s face it this is a watershed match for us,” insists Carr, “We have got to prove ourselves. You might get away with the odd slip on a banna-skin in the league - we still managed to win promotion, after all - but there is certainly no hiding place in the Championship. No, defeat tomorrow does not even bear thinking about.”
Carr’s obvious reluctance to even mention the possibility of his team picking their steps along the All Ireland Qualifiers route only serves to underscore his total focus on taking the direct route to possible success.
“Our followers have had to be patient but they clearly want a team which they can acclaim. The players are aware of this and know their responsibilities,” insists Carr.
A plethora of domestic club league games of late have provided him with a ration of anxiety in retaining a clean bill of health within his squad but the fact that long-term injury victim Liam Doyle is currently the only absentee nourishes his belief that his team can dispense with their erratic trait when they now enter the Championship arena.
Declan Rooney, Daniel Hughes, Aidan Carr, Benny Coulter (if fit), Brendan McVeigh and skipper Dan Gordon form a vintage core within his side which Carr hopes will provide the thrust and energy to defuse what is certain to be a robust challenge from a Fermanagh side set to welcome back Ryan McCluskey and bolstered by the physical steel and subtle touches of their experienced corps of Martin McGrath, Tommy McElroy, James Sherry, Ryan Keenan, Ciaran McElroy, Eamon Maguire and Mark Little.
Carr says: “Fermanagh may have had a disappointing league run but that will make them even more fired up for the Ulster Championship. They are at home, they are well prepared and they will feel they can do at least as well as they did last year. Enough said.”