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Poland brothers target Down title success

Mark Poland
Mark Poland
John Campbell

By John Campbell

When former Down player Mark Poland takes in today's All-Ireland Final replay between Dublin and Kerry, his mind will doubtless drift back to the 2010 decider in which he was a member of the Mourne county team that lost to Cork by the narrowest of margins, 0-16 to 0-15.

It was a shattering blow for a Down side that had looked more than capable of getting their hands on the Sam Maguire Cup until they were overtaken in the closing stages.

But while Poland came close to earning the biggest honour the sport can offer, he has not allowed the disappointment of the occasion to blight his commitment to gaelic football.

And when he lines out for his club Longstone against Warrenpoint in the Down Championship play-offs at Burren tomorrow (5.30pm), he will be happy to fill "any forward position that there might be for me" now that his younger brother Conor has slotted into the centre-half-forward slot that Mark himself filled with distinction for so long.

"Obviously I have my memories of 2010 and all that, but life moves on," reflects Mark.

"Longstone have their sights on the Down Championship title but Warrenpoint have been looking lively to date, and we know that in Ross McGarry in particular they have a player who can trouble us."

The Down Championship is certainly hotting up, with several big guns including Kilcoo, Burren and Mayobridge still in the hunt for the title.

Mayobridge will also be in action in Burren tomorrow against Ballyholland in another quarter-final tie (7pm), while the meeting of Burren and Kilcoo on Monday night at Pairc Esler, Newry is very much in the nature of a 'big two' affair.

Meanwhile, holders Cushendall can take a big step towards retaining their Antrim Senior Hurling Championship crown when they meet St John's in the first of two semi-finals at Ballycastle tomorrow (2pm).

Neil McManus, Ryan McCambridge and Paddy Burke can help to fire up the champions, while St John's will look to the Johnston brothers Conor and Ciaran, Simon Doherty and Shea Shannon for inspiration.

In the other semi-final, Dunloy with Conor McKinley, Paul Shiels and Nigel Elliott in tow will meet Loughgiel (3.30pm).

In the Down hurling decider Ballycran will tackle Ballygalget at Portaferry tomorrow (3.30pm).

Tomorrow's Derry Hurling Championship semi-finals see Slaughtneil play Lavey (4pm) while Kevin Lynch's meet Ballinascreen (5.30pm) in what is a very attractive double bill at Owenbeg.

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