Down fans urged to roar their team to 24-hour brace
Two important matches within 24 hours were not quite on Down hurling manager Gerard Monan's radar as his side glided through their Kehoe Cup campaign this month.
Now, suddenly Monan finds that his team must confront Kildare in the semi-final of this competition on Saturday before taking on Antrim in the Ulster final at Celtic Park, Derry on Sunday.
And the Down manager has cause to be thankful that his 34-man squad is very much up for battle on both fronts, unhindered by serious injury worries or lack of ambition.
"The squad have worked very hard but we never quite envisaged finding themselves in this rather unique position," says Monan.
Down chairman Seamus Walsh has issued a clarion call to supporters to get behind the team in their bid to land what would be a significant brace of victories.
"We have to go with the hand which we have been dealt. It is not going to be easy on the players but thankfully we have a good panel and I have no doubt that the players will respond positively to the challenge that confronts them," declares Walsh.
"We thought initially that the Kehoe Cup would provide us with a lead into the league but it would seem that our progress has come at a price when you consider our itinerary for this week-end."
Neil McManus, who captained Antrim last year and served as a selector with the u-21 side that reached the All-Ireland decider only to be beaten by Clare, maintains that both finalists will now use the Ulster showpiece as a stepping stone for the league.
"It would have been much better had this final been played last summer when the teams would have been more up for it," insists McManus. "The teams as they were constituted then could have played out the game had it gone ahead.
"Players still want to play and it is a final of course. Yet as things now stand the gloss has been taken off the match."
Derry will meet Meath in the other Kehoe Cup semi-final at Trim on Sunday having accounted for DCU and Trinity to date in the competition while Queen's will host Roscommon in the Kehoe Shield at The Dub.
The Ulster Council, meanwhile, has confirmed that the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup final between Cavan and Tyrone will be played on Wednesday February 19 with the venue still to be confirmed.
The match was originally fixed for last Saturday but was postponed because Brewster Park, Enniskillen was waterlogged.