Ronan Sheehan hopes his Down side can hurl out an early warning
Down hurling boss Ronan Sheehan is keeping his fingers crossed that his side can point the way to progress this year by overcoming Ulster University in tonight's Conor McGurk Cup final at The Dub, Belfast (7.00pm).
Sheehan believes that his team has spent rather too long in Division 2B of the Allianz League and is particularly anxious to see them enjoy enhanced status.
"It's time we were moving up and (tonight's match) could help to put us on the right track," maintains Sheehan.
"The majority of the players are under the age of 24 and would surely benefit from stepping up in the league."
He will look to Caolan Taggart, Matt Conlon, Eoghan Sands, Paul Sheehan and Conor Woods to fire his team's challenge while his UU counterpart Simon Doherty will lean on Conal Cunning, Kevin Rice, Donal McKernan, Shea Shannon and Peter McCallin for inspiration.
Doherty is also the Armagh goalkeeper and his infectious enthusiasm for hurling has had much to do with the university team's progress to date.
They have already recorded wins over Armagh and Tyrone and are unlikely to be fazed by the test that Down will pose.
"This does not mean that we don't have the height of respect for Down - we do," insists Doherty. "But I think the boys have grown in self-belief following our earlier wins in the competition."
Down boss Sheehan will be off to Abbotstown tomorrow to run the rule over Kildare who meet Antrim in the Keogh Cup semi-final there (2.00pm).
Kildare are also in Division 2B and Sheehan will avail of the opportunity to assess the side which is now under the baton of David Herrity.
Antrim manager Neal Peden is still missing several experienced players but will look to James McNaughton in particular to fire up his attack following the 14 points he landed in the 0-21 to 0-13 win over Wicklow in his team's earlier outing.
Conor McCann, Sean Duffin and Simon McCrory are other key players in the Saffrons line-up although Joe Maskey may be missing in view of St Enda's forthcoming All-Ireland club football championship semi-final against Galway and Connacht champions Spiddal.
Peden is keen to see Antrim make an impact in the competition and should his side come out on top they will then meet Westmeath or Meath in the final next weekend.