Darragh O'Hanlon aiming for the Mournemen to hit ground running
Down could hardly have asked for a more demanding start to their Division Two campaign in the Allianz Football League.
Jim McCorry's side make the trip to Newbridge to face Kildare in their opening tie on Sunday and then a week later host newly-crowned FBD Connacht League champions Roscommon at Pairc Esler, Newry.
But this onerous twin task could perhaps bring out the best in a team which is slowly but surely beginning to settle.
And defender Darragh O'Hanlon makes it clear that the Mournemen are now keen to slip into top gear.
"We want to make a bit of an impact in the league if we can," insists O'Hanlon. "We need to take one step at a time. There is a lot of talk about the Ulster Championship and the fact that Down have not won the title for 20 years but we must give the league our fullest attention now."
Manager McCorry and his players have already fully digested Kildare's feisty performance against Dublin in the O'Byrne Cup final last Sunday when they were only beaten in extra-time and they have absorbed too Roscommon's rather surprising 4-8 to 1-12 FBD Connacht League final win over Galway the same day.
"I think this shows the quality of opposition we will be encountering in Division Two," reflects O'Hanlon.
"We are essentially a young squad and we need to hone our system of play in the league before we start thinking of Ulster titles."
The retirements of Brendan McVeigh and Benny Coulter and the current unavailability of other long-serving foot-soldiers such as Dan Gordon, Kalum King, Liam Doyle, Ambrose Rogers and Aidan Carr has meant that manager McCorry had to cast his selection net wider.
"There are new boys in there who are doing well and that is encouraging," agrees O'Hanlon.
His Kilcoo club have been the dominant force in Down football winning the county championship three times in the last four years under McCorry's shrewd baton.
Now O'Hanlon is understandably keen to see some of his club's success rub off on Down.
"We have had a great run on the club front and it would be nice to see some of this success transferred to county level. Down fans have had to be patient over the years and you would just love to think that we could give them something to cheer about this year," says O'Hanlon.