More woe on cards for Down in Mayo
When Kerry overcame Down in Division One of the National Football League last Sunday, it was the first time in 19 years they had played in Newry.
And that prompted some of the cynics to point out this provided ample proof that the Mourne county’s tenure in the top tier of the league has been rather more limited than that of the Kingdom over the past couple of decades.
Be that as it may, such statistics will not figure in the thinking of manager James McCartan when his Down side confront Mayo today in the knowledge that defeat could ease them closer to the relegation trap-door.
A one-point win over a weakened Donegal side and defeats to Cork and Kerry have made it a miserable league campaign so far and prospects of a revival cannot be considered bright against a Mayo side that breezed past Armagh last weekend.
The fact too that Mayo boss James Horan is talking up Down in advance of Sunday’s game is not without a trace of irony given their form to date.
“Down have some serious players and as a team they possess a lot of pace,” maintains Horan.
He’s correct on both counts but James McCartan’s problem has been to elicit convincing performances from those very same players.
Dan Gordon has been Down’s most consistent performer since the start of the year while Mark Poland and Benny Coulter have worked hard without any real reward in an attack that has been rather too easily blunted by opposing defences.
Mayo’s ferocious work-ethic, support play and ability to plunder scores from all angles and distances underlined their wins over Laois and Armagh to date.
But skipper Alan Dillon perhaps puts his finger on the real reason for Mayo’s emergence as a force when he says: “We have added a physical aspect to our play this year which has helped us in terms of ball-winning capacity.”
Thus Down have been warned — in the recent past, Mayo sides tended to be dispossessed rather easily and more often than not folded when the heat came on.
That is not quite the case under Horan and McCartan’s men can expect a dour battle against a team cushioned by a new-found confidence and capable of expressing themselves much more comprehensively.
Meanwhile, Donegal will travel to Kerry knowing that victory in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney would totally erase any feeling of discontent and depression occasioned by their poor start.
Having claimed the scalp of Cork last Sunday, Jim McGuinness' side now have their sights set on the other ‘big two’ Munster scalp and with Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden and Patrick McBrearty on fire in their attack, there is the possibility that they could achieve their goal.
Neil Gallagher, Rory Kavanagh and Karl Lacey lend experience and physicality to a Donegal side that is beginning to take shape now that several players have returned to the fold after assisting their university sides.