Down's confidence can yield title joy, insists DJ Kane
The man who skippered Down to their last Ulster title in 1994 believes the Mournemen's forthcoming Allianz Football League Division Two final against Roscommon could prove a barometer for even better things ahead.
DJ Kane proved an inspirational leader when Down complemented their provincial triumph by going on to collect their second All-Ireland title under Peter McGrath that year but since then lean teams have prevailed in the county.
Now, though, the rich promise offered by a stirring league campaign that has already ensured a return to the top bracket is fermenting optimism that Down could be about to emerge from the championship wilderness.
And schoolteacher Kane, who seldom if ever misses a game in which his beloved county are involved, believes that the Croke Park showdown with Roscommon will provide a further insight into the team's capabilities.
"We never thought it would take so long for Down to get another Ulster title," reflects Kane.
"Now we're all hoping that this will be the year. The team's form has been a wee bit patchy at home in the league but I have no doubt that promotion will have instilled confidence within the side.
"We lost to Roscommon in our opening league game at home and we certainly owe them one and where better to come good than in the divisional final against them in Croke Park."
Down's away form in the league has been impressive, though, sustaining the belief that the team's character and courage can stand them in good stead in the renewal of rivalry with Roscommon and in their Ulster championship quarter-final against Derry.
"This is going to be a very, very difficult championship game for us," admits Kane.
"We played Derry in Celtic Park two years ago in the Ulster series and beat them but then we had to go back to them in the qualifiers and they turned the tables on us. Now we must go back there again and it's an enormous task."
The emergence of players such as Stephen Kane, Gerard Collins, Peter Turley, Conall McGovern, Luke Howard and Caolan Mooney has served to considerably strengthen the Down squad and Kane is convinced that cohesion allied to a high work-rate will be key elements for the major contests that are looming on the horizon.
"When Jim McCorry came in as manager he knew that he had to take some chances in terms of building and developing for the future and so far those chances have worked out fairly well," points out Kane.
"Obviously we are all hoping that this will continue. If Down could get a win or two in the Championship the whole bandwagon could start to roll again and you never know where it might take us."