Pride is now back in the red and black jersey, says McKernan
If Down players did their talking out on the park against Monaghan, then they certainly were not slow off the mark in expressing strong post-match views on recent setbacks and just where they feel their county stands right now.
And it is no coincidence that several of the players who have been in the vanguard of far too many bad days at the office are forthright in assessing what they believe their team’s unexpected victory can mean for what has been for much too long a beleaguered county.
Kevin McKernan has laboured at the coal face for a decade, Mark Poland is a former skipper who was drafted in as substitute on Saturday night and Darragh O’Hanlon’s immense scoring donation (1-5) was complemented by a tremendous contribution in open play.
“When you see men committed to the ball and to the cause in the way in which Down were in this game against Monaghan you know what it means to them,” insists McKernan. “I think we showed a lot of people what a wee bit of belief can do.
“This is a proud county and the players have talked about what it means to them to pull on the red and black jersey.
“I would say that the Down faithful had lost faith in us because of our lack of achievement for nearly two years and I just hope that in this win over Monaghan and in the win over Armagh earlier in the month we have helped to restore a little bit of that faith.”
“Now we must gear up for Tyrone and see how it goes. The important thing is that pride is back in the red and black jersey.”
Poland, so often the play maker for Down in the past, admits that the team has endured dark days in the past.
“We have been there many teams and we know what it means but we are just happy to have come up with the right result against Monaghan on this occasion,” reflects Longstone club veteran Poland. “The challenge for us now is to take things on from here.”
If the ebullient O’Hanlon was on target by landing 1-5 — his goal came from a penalty and his points from frees — then he is equally accurate in his assessment of the backdrop against which his team entered Saturday’s match.
“Everybody was saying before the game that it was going to be a Tyrone versus Monaghan final and that Down had no chance,” says Kilcoo stalwart O’Hanlon. “Well, Down are in the final now. We know we have a good bunch of players here and we went into the game against Monaghan not cocky but confident.”
“We knew we would get the job done and that’s what we achieved. Of course Tyrone will be a big obstacle in the final but that will be a story for another day.
“We have had to ship a lot of criticism but the fact that we have drawn with Cork and beaten both Armagh and Monaghan will encourage us going forward, but it will certainly not make us in the slightest complacent. It is going to be much harder from here on in.”