Poland poised for final push in promotion bid
Down currently find themselves involved in a three-horse race for promotion from Division Two of the Allianz Football League.
With their defeat against Galway now viewed as nothing more than a temporary blip after the unexpected win over previously high-flying Donegal at the weekend, confidence has been restored within the Mourne camp.
Mark Poland, scorer of the late winning goal against Armagh and man-of-the-match against Donegal, epitomises the caution that is currently endemic within James McCartan's side.
With two away games against Meath and Laois on the menu before Down wrap up their league programme, Longstone clubman Poland warns that the team cannot afford to lose concentration.
"Much appears to have been made of the fact that we lost against Galway and that it had a bad effect on our promotion push – and maybe there is a little truth in that," acknowledges Poland.
"The fact of the matter is that I thought in that game we gave one of our best performances of this year, although we did not take advantage of the scoring chances we created.
"Our approach work was good and we showed fine cohesion, but when it came to putting the ball over the bar we fell short."
Only two Down players, Donal O'Hare (0-6) and Brendan McKernan (0-2) scored in that match thus further sabotaging morale, but the hard-earned win over Donegal has served to inculcate fresh buoyancy for the remainder of the league.
Six players, including four starting forwards, scored in the 1-9 to 0-10 win against Jim McGuinness's side, with Poland contributing two of the more crucial scores.
Now he is summoning a big effort from the side as a key phase of their promotion push looms.
"It could be said that Meath and Laois are finding it difficult in the league, but these are teams that on any given day can beat any other side," said Poland.
"It's important that we take our chances. We need to step up on our performance against Donegal and we have to remember that they missed a number of scoring chances in the second half."
And he dismisses the notion that Down can look forward to the Ulster Championship with renewed confidence.
"We have achieved nothing yet," he points out. "Let's just take one step at a time. This next league match is our total focus."