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All Ireland Football Championship: Down back Rafferty in shop window

Damien Rafferty has been one of the unsung heroes in Down’s surge into the All-Ireland football final.

But then even had he wished to court publicity this most modest of defenders would not have had sufficient time to pursue this particular course because of increasing work commitments.

The Newry Shamrocks clubman has just recently opened a new sports goods shop in the WIN industrial estate in Newry in tandem with Benny Coulter and is discovering that Down regalia is his biggest seller.

When he and Coulter were initially pondering the possibility of opening their shop they little thought that they themselves as much as their products would be a magnet for the fans.

But Rafferty is delighted to hail what he now believes to be a happy coincidence.

“We have just opened the business at the right time it would seem. We can’t complain about that. Obviously the fans want to get kitted out in style for the All Ireland final and we are happy to help them,” says the teak-tough left-full-back.

Yet his own involvement in the early stages of the championship looked to be in doubt when injury threatened to ruin his personal sporting script.

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But he recovered to take his place in the side that met Donegal in the Ulster Championship opener in which he played a superb role not just in his defensive capacity but in terms of launching a series of telling left-sided counter-attacks.

And it was a spectacular extra-time goal from his business partner Coulter that not only sealed Down’s win but spawned the notion that an Ulster title might be in the offing.

Tyrone subsequently put paid to this ambition in the semi-final, however, but Down quickly re-grouped for the qualifiers and today they are on the threshold of joining the immortals from the five sides from the county that have brought the Sam Maguire Cup back to the Kingdom of Mourne.

“Cork will be a very tough nut to crack. We know if they hit form they will be hard to stop. I think we have shown we have the skill and the organisation to do well and hopefully we will get a few breaks and things will go our way,” says Rafferty.

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