Generations of Ulster's best never tasted glory, regrets Tally
Down manager Paddy Tally watched his side just fail to gain promotion to Division Two of the Allianz Football League but now he is hoping that they can reach a new level when the Ulster Championship gets under way.
And he believes that this will be the goal of every other side in the province as the battle for the Anglo-Celt Cup looms.
Down have not won the Ulster title since 1994, the same year in which they last landed the All-Ireland title, and Tally is aware that there is a strong yearning within his county to see this famine ended.
"When you look at it, since Down last landed the major championship prizes that are on offer two or maybe three generations of players have come and gone in the county without winning anything," reflects Tally.
"This of course is only a historical statistic to the younger players in the current team but when you think about it, isn't it really a lengthy void? Many good players have represented Down since 1994 but unfortunately they have nothing to show for their efforts which is a great pity."
"And this situation does not just apply in Down. Take Tyrone, for instance. Any young lad finding his feet in the Tyrone side at the minute would not relate to the fact that the county had to wait until 2003 before they won their first All-Ireland title."
"The generations pass very quickly in top-level football - I have always maintained that the only relevant period is now, the present. There is no point dwelling on the past or reflecting on what might have been."
"While there is a proud history of past success in Down, it's where we are now that really counts. The current team is there to do its best and I think they should not be burdened by the past but instead embrace the current challenge."
Tally, like many of his managerial counterparts, used the recent Allianz League to blood new players and the form of newcomers such as Rory Burns, Ruairi Wells, Daniel Guinness and Pierce Laverty gives him great heart going into the provincial campaign.
These were unknown players at the outset of the league but are now challenging strongly for starting places in the championship opener against Armagh.
But the Down boss warns that they and their colleagues must be ready to face up to bigger pressures in the championship.
"It will be every interesting from our perspective to see how our league form converts into championship form," states Tally.
"It is well-known and accepted that the championship is a different animal. League football can be quite deceiving at times but a championship day is different.
"There is always an edge to a championship match and an intensity that you only get at this level of football.
"Players have to be ready for this and indeed this is the real challenge for all teams in Ulster."
Tally is all too aware of the pressure that accompanies championship football and he is particularly preoccupied with seeing his team get over Armagh at the first hurdle.
"This is a very big game no matter how you look at it. Whichever team wins will have it to say that they claimed a big scalp going forward. Down people love championship action and they look forward to this time of the year," adds Tally.
"I think the Down players, too, live for championship football. They might not have had a great deal of success in this sector over the course of a number of years but this does not diminish their appetite for it.
"Any player will tell you that this is the level at which he really wants to be involved. There is no better championship game to whet the appetite than a derby battle with your neighbours from just down the road."
Meanwhile, former Kerry forward Kieran Donaghy has joined the Sky TV team as a GAA pundit.
He will link up with Peter Canavan among others in hosting the station's coverage of the provincial and All-Ireland championships.
Donaghy is already predicting that Tyrone are one of four teams who could potentially beat Dublin this summer.
He also believes that Kerry, Galway and Mayo are other teams who have the capacity to pull off this feat.
With Dublin going for their fifth All-Ireland title on the trot, there is tremendous pre-Championship excitement as the possibility of what would be a historic feat is contemplated up and down the country.
"But at the end of the day, the championship will tell its own tale," says Donaghy.