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McParland hopes Down can home in on a late boost

By John Campbell

Down manager Eamonn Burns has been granted some breathing space as he strives to keep his team in Division Two of the Allianz Football League.

Such are the vagaries of the competition, indeed, that the Mournemen cannot be ruled out of re-entering the promotion race or indeed being relegated to Division Three.

His team were due to meet Cavan in a hugely important tie tonight, which has now been ruled out by the prevailing weather conditions — but this will only offer Burns more time in which to reflect on his team’s Jekyll and Hyde approach to the league.

In bucking the trend followed to date by most other sides, Down have won their two away matches against Roscommon and Louth but have fallen to Cork and Clare at their own Pairc an Iuir ground.

Skipper Niall McParland has also been left scratching his head as he yet again urges his side to dust themselves off and re-ignite their promotion bid in the match against Cavan, which will now go ahead next weekend.

Mattie McGleenan’s side are unbeaten in four outings and are well-placed to stride into Division One again — something that Burns is acutely aware of.

“Obviously Cavan will have gained confidence from their campaign to date. They are showing consistency and they have new players who have come in and performed well, so they will feel with home advantage that they can get the better of us,” says McParland.

“But we dusted ourselves down after the Cork defeat and went after it again against Roscommon and I think we are capable of repeating this against Cavan, although it will take a huge all-round effort.”

McParland, concerned at his side’s inability to string together back-to-back wins in the league to date, believes that the clash with Cavan offers Down the kind of challenge they need to overcome if they are to be regarded as serious contenders for promotion.

“Cavan will have their tails up so it’s up to us to bring our best form to the table,” maintains Glenn clubman McParland.

His Cavan counterpart Dara McVeety, who is currently proving a driving force within the side, certainly leaves no doubt as to what Cavan’s approach to the tie will be.

“It is time for us to step up and push on. We have learned the hard way that it is a big step up between under-21 and senior level,” says McVeety.

“But every year you can see lads getting that bit stronger and that bit more athletic. I would like to think that this will stand to us now and that we will prove a match for Down, who will certainly be coming in search of the points.”

Down supporters have grown accustomed to the way their side has blown hot and cold in the past. But last year they showed they were capable of moving up in the world when they reached the Ulster final, in which they were beaten by Tyrone, before exiting the All-Ireland qualifiers at the hands of a Monaghan side who they had already beaten in the provincial semi-final.

That’s why the Mournemen embarked on their 2018 campaign imbued with optimism, but their home form in particular has been a major disappointment to their fans.

After meeting Cavan, they have one more game at home against Tipperary before they face a trip to Meath.

Belfast Telegraph

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