Two defeats in the last three competitive matches have served to inculcate a measure of apprehension into the Down camp in advance of tonight’s All Ireland football Qualifier against Longford.
And no one is more aware that a big performance is required from James McCartan’s side than county chairman Seamus Walsh.
If Down’s successful surge into Division One of the National League sparked optimism for the Championship, this feel-good factor has been somewhat diluted following the disappointing Ulster championship semi-final defeat by reigning champions Tyrone last month at Casement Park.
And while Walsh stresses that Down are now more than capable for atoning for this lapse he points out that Longford is a county which is enjoying its own ration of success at the moment.
“Consider these facts — Longford have already beaten Mayo in the Qualifiers, their hurlers won the Lory Meagher Cup by overcoming Donegal in the final and their Minor football team is in the Leinster final tomorrow,” he said. “That’s more than enough to give any county a lift.
“Their manager Glenn Ryan, who was always very committed while he was playing for Kildare, has made it very clear that they are coming to win and you just sense that there is a whole new atmosphere abroad within the county.”
The Mourne side’s promotion to Division One helped to project manager McCartan in an even more appealing light but Walsh warns that supporters can lose faith very quickly.
“One thing you have to remember in football is that eaten bread is soon forgotten,” he states. “What we achieved in the league was impressive and naturally we are delighted to be joining the big boys next year and getting the chance to host the likes of Dublin, Kerry, Cork and Galway at Newry.
“But on the other hand we know that this Down team will ultimately be judged on what they do in the Qualifiers now that we are out of the running for the Ulster title. This game against Longford is crucial because our followers will not be just be looking for a win — they will be looking for a comprehensive victory that will spark renewed optimism.”