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It's Martin at the double as Down eye title glory

 

Dual player: Ronan Sheehan hails Stuart Martin’s input
Dual player: Ronan Sheehan hails Stuart Martin’s input
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Such is Ronan Sheehan's passion for hurling that serving as manager of both the Down senior and U20 teams is an enjoyable pursuit rather than a heavy burden.

And now that his Under 20 outfit have reached the All-Ireland 'B' Championship final in which they will meet Kerry at Thurles on Saturday week, Sheehan believes that they can lay down a marker for the future.

It was in a thrilling semi-final against Derry that Down managed to come out on top by a solitary point (2-17 to 0-22) and in that game players such as Conor McCrickard, Ronan Costello, Ruairi McCrickard and Phelim Savage stood tall but Sheehan is nonetheless prepared to take his hat off to one player in particular.

Stuart Martin is a member of the Ulster Rugby U19 Development Squad but his dedication to Down is absolute, according to Sheehan.

"I think it's great that we have someone like Stuart in there who is passionately committed to two sports and serves them equally well," says Sheehan.

"He was one of our stand-out players in the win over Derry and he is a great asset to the side. He has only recently finished his A-levels but his sporting prowess is likely to carry him a long way."

Martin, like his Down colleagues, is looking forward to coming up against a Kerry U20 side that is spliced with talent.

They beat Meath by 2-21 to 1-19 in the other semi-final but were forced to lean on substitute Barry O'Mahony to deliver the goods for them in quite spectacular style.

O'Mahoney answered the call to arms in exemplary fashion by landing ten points and playing a big part in helping his side overturn a six-point interval deficit.

His feat has been digested in detail in Down as Sheehan steps up his preparations for a game that he sees as pertinent to the development of the sport in the county.

"For us to be in this final is a great boost but to be going to Semple Stadium in Thurles, which is regarded as the spiritual home of hurling by many, is a terrific challenge," says Sheehan.

"Next to Croke Park, it's the most prestigious venue at which we could be playing so we certainly want to do ourselves justice. It would be a tremendous bonus for us if we could come out on top."

To do that, Down will require to snap up goals if they can given Kerry's capacity for racking up scores at a steady rate when they get into their stride.

"When you can bring on a substitute who can get you ten points, then you know you are going in against a side with serious resources," says Sheehan.

"We were fortunate in that Conor McCrickard and Ronan Costello got goals for us in the semi-final when they were very badly needed and hopefully we will benefit from their marksmanship again. It's fingers crossed!"

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