Fans can play a huge part in taking us to All-Ireland title, says Sheehan
Down Under-20 hurling manager Ronan Sheehan has been presented with an additional reason for hoping that followers from the county will get behind his side when they face Kerry in Saturday's All-Ireland B Under-20 Hurling Championship final.
Sheehan had initially been under the impression that the game would take place in Semple Stadium, Thurles, but now instead it's Pairc Tailteann, Navan that will host the decider.
And, from Sheehan's perspective, this leads to a bittersweet feeling as the match will now form part of a double bill along with the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Super8 meeting between Meath and Kerry, and will mean that the Kingdom Under-20 side can expect a bigger vocal backing.
"Obviously it is a much shorter journey to Navan for us, but Kerry will certainly have a big following to support them because their county is doubly engaged on the day," says Sheehan.
"This being the case, I would love to see Down supporters coming out in numbers to get behind the side. These lads deserve support because they have been putting in a huge effort in training.
"We were put to the pin of our collar by Derry in the semi-final before we came out on top, and the effort the players put into that game was unbelievable. It will take the same again and maybe more if we are to get the better of Kerry."
Sheehan has painstakingly built a side which has helped to keep the name of Down up in lights this summer and he sees an All-Ireland title as proving a massive boost for hurling in the county.
"If players at this age can show their worth on the All-Ireland stage, then this will give them confidence and enthusiasm going forward," points out Sheehan, an executive with Lloyds Bank.
"We know that Kerry are a very accomplished team. Their senior side has been knocking on the door at elite level for a while and, although the county is regarded as a football stronghold, they are no slouches when it comes to hurling."
The Down boss will look to players such as the McCrickards, Conor and Ruairi, Ronan Costello and Stuart Martin to inspire his side. In their semi-final win over Derry, Down were forced to dig deep to come out on top and Sheehan expects that it will be no different on Saturday.
"I believe that this is the acid test for us no matter how you look at it," he observes. "We are going in against a side that boasts a proud tradition and they will no doubt want to continue that."
Meanwhile, Derry's long-serving Karen Kielt is hoping to be given game time when the team meets Tipperary in the All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship on Saturday.
Kielt is just getting back into the swing of things after a 14 months lay-off and believes that she is ready for Championship action.
Derry boss John O'Dwyer is aware of what Kielt can bring to the table but may continue to show patience in re-introducing her to the cut and thrust of All-Ireland fare. Derry need to win by ten points to make the semi-finals - a tall order indeed.