Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA Down

Sands and Elliott still happy to fulfil their roles in bringing on new talent in province

Experience: Noel Sands in his Down hurling heyday
Experience: Noel Sands in his Down hurling heyday
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Two former Ulster hurling stalwarts will find themselves sharing the same pitch again today but not necessarily pursuing a similar goal.

Noel Sands, who wore the Down jersey with considerable distinction from 1985 until 2003 and landed eight county championship medals with Portaferry, will be part of the county's management team for the All-Ireland Minor Camogie Shield final against Meath at Inniskeen (2pm) while Antrim's Owen Elliott will be referee.

Sands, whose son Eoghan is an integral part of the current Down side, was the Mourne county's top scorer for several years when he was at his peak and now that he has transferred his allegiance to the camogie code his coaching technique and expertise are helping to reap dividends.

His management colleague Francie McGrath certainly believes that Sands continues to play a big part in nurturing youthful talent within the county.

"Noel still shows tremendous influence and has helped to build a great bond within the side," says Ballyvarley clubman McGrath who has also helped to rekindle enthusiasm at under-age level in camogie.

Down reached the final by virtue of a handsome win over Kildare in their semi-final but Meath's smooth passage into the decider has not gone unnoticed by McGrath.

"They have been very consistent and obviously we will need to hit the ground running if we are to have any chance of coming out on top," says McGrath.

Elliott, meanwhile, is regarded as one of the country's leading referees and his status was copper-fastened when he was nominated to take charge of the 2017 All-Ireland senior final - not an honour that comes the way of an Ulster whistler too often.

In today's All-Ireland Minor 'C' final Tyrone must travel to Crettyard (Co. Laois) to meet Kerry (2pm).

The Red Hands side have come through some difficult matches yet this could stand to them against a Kerry team that will start as favourites.

Meanwhile, Antrim skipper Saoirse Tennyson reveals that "a huge effort" is being put into training ahead of next Saturday's Lidl Ladies National Football League final showdown against Fermanagh.

Tennyson's side stunned fancied Louth in last weekend's semi-final but the Saffrons leader is convinced that Fermanagh will ask big questions of her side.

"We need to produce a huge effort if we are to win," states Tennyson.

"Look at the way they came back against Limerick. That in itself has to be lesson for us. We know they are very strong up front where Eimear Smith in particular can be very dangerous."

The sides have become familiar with each other's play and Tennyson does not expect any element of surprise to surface.

"Next Saturday's game will probably not be our last meeting of the year but it's one we desperately want to win because promotion would mean so much to us," explains Tennyson.

"Antrim have never been in Division Three and we want to be the side to make history."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph