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Down can pose a threat to Kingdom, says Blaney

In his playing days Greg Blaney was a familiar figure at Croke Park.

Whether it was in the thick of the action in the International Rules or a central figure in Down’s 1991 and 1994 All Ireland successes, he always stood out.

He will return to Headquarters tomorrow afternoon hoping the Mourne men can take their recent revival a stage further when they face Kerry in the All Ireland quarter-final.

As a man who enjoyed success at virtually every level in the sport, the Belfast dentist is well equipped to put Down’s challenge into perspective.

“It’s a match I’m looking forward to immensely,” says Blaney (pictured).

“Kerry will be stiff opposition, but I would be hopeful.”

As a player Blaney was as competitive as they come, always prepared to put his body on the line.

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But it’s too often overlooked that the three times All Star was also a player of great vision. It’s those qualities and much more that Down must display if they are to defy the odds and send Kerry packing.

The Mourne men have fallen into the also rans category in recent years, but Blaney argues that results don’t tell the full story.

“We reached the 2003 Ulster final against Tyrone and lost, and since then we’ve flattered to deceive.

“But while Down weren’t in the top five or six teams in the country they were better than results would have had you believe.

“Don’t get me wrong, I was never under the illusion that we were world beaters, but I still felt we had more talent than it at first seemed,” he says.

The progress of the Mourne county has been steady rather than spectacular as they made their way from Division Three to One in successive seasons.

James McCartan has come in after the departure of Ross Carr and the team is back at Croke Park for a second time this summer.

But Blaney, a Carryduff clubman, is hoping that Down’s Ulster semi-final loss to Tyrone was no more than a blip.

“In the first 20 minutes Down played so well but then switched off and could have been beaten by 10 points. The match against Kerry will give us a much better idea of just where the team stands in the pecking order.

“But Down need to be extra vigilant especially if Kerry manage to get decent ball into Kieran Donaghy and Colm Cooper.

“Against a side the calibre of Kerry you can’t afford to end up chasing the game when the harm’s done.

“But providing we get a decent share of ball in the middle third of the field we’ll be in with a good shout.

“For me Kerry number 11 Declan O’Sullivan is a real quality player,” he says.

“I doubt if there’s a better one in the country.”

Kerry will start the game short six of their 2009 All Ireland winning side — and that offers hope to Down.

“The absence of both Paul Galvin and Tomas O Se is a massive loss for Kerry, but they are still a formidable side,” Blaney commented.

“You have to temper the delight at getting to the last eight with the realism that we are still an unknown quantity.

“What would Down fans have been saying when we lost to Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final?

“Tyrone could have won by 10 points and you couldn’t have argued, but still I won’t be astonished if we win,” says Blaney.

Down show one change from the side that started against Sligo when they take on Kerry.

Daniel McCartan comes in at right corner back allowing Declan Rooney to revert to right half back in place of Darren O’Hagan.

DOWN: B McVeigh, D McCartan, D Gordon, D Rafferty, D Rooney, K McKernan, C Garvey, A Rogers(capt), K King, D Hughes, M Poland, P McComiskey, B Coulter, J Clarke, M Clarke.

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