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Revitalised Rogers key to Down’s resurgence

By John Campbell

What's worth having is worth waiting for. And a Down jersey is certainly worth having as far as Ambrose Rogers is concerned.

The Longstone clubman has had to exercise considerable patience in his bid to win back his place in the side after over a year out with a cruciate ligament injury but now he suddenly finds himself as the catalyst in his county’s renaissance.

From being touted as potential relegation candidates in Division One of the National Football League, Down could now conceivably finish in the top half of the table.

And it’s all because of a towering performance by the 25-year-old Rogers against Mayo on Sunday which underpinned a surprise victory for his side.

Now with games against teams such as Laois and Armagh still to come, James McCartan’s side have grounds for optimism that Division One football is within their gambit for next year.

Mayo had gone into Sunday’s confrontation at Castlebar as warm favourites having clipped Armagh’s wings at the Morgan Athletic Grounds in their last outing, while Down headed west suitably chastened following successive defeats by Cork and Kerry.

But their sharp, incisive passing, smooth finishing and efficient defending helped them collect what could prove an invaluable brace of points in their bid to remain among the elite.

The ball-winning capacity of Rogers allied to his work-rate and forward bursts took the weight off his colleagues to such an extent that several of them revelled in the time and space which they were afforded.

But the modest Rogers, whose late father Ambrose snr. proved such a magnificent servant to Down, refuses to bask in the credit for Down’s best performance of the year.

“I was delighted for the team,” he said.

“The boys have been putting in a great effort without maybe getting the reward they deserved and it was encouraging that things went right for us against Mayo.

“Obviously this guarantees us nothing for the remainder of the league but hopefully it will give us a bit more confidence and heighten our resolve.”

The Down recovery mission could be further galvanised if another victory were to be recorded against Dublin at Newry on Saturday — a match which will surely have Pairc Esler bursting at the seams given Pat Gilroy’s side’s tremendous win over Armagh at the weekend.

“This will be a big challenge for us but we will be up for it,” promises manager McCartan.

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