Having missed out on Down’s first round Ulster senior football championship victory over Donegal, injured captain Ambrose Rodgers hopes to face Tyrone in the first semi-final on June 19.
“While it was frustrating to have to sit and watch the match it was great to see the enjoyment that the win created,” says Rodgers. “A lot of our followers had left places like Downpatrick, Ballynahinch and other areas very early to get there (Ballybofey) and there was a feelgood factor at the end. But now we must push on and the fact that we will be meeting the reigning Ulster champions in our next match will be a major challenge for us.”
In his absence Kalum King and Dan Gordon formed the midfield against Donegal, though Gordon was pushed up into the attack in the second-half when his physical presence and fielding ability caused Donegal problems.
Rodgers believes the game against Tyrone will offer his side further proof of their progress.
“We now have a massive incentive to prove ourselves as a real force in the Ulster Championship,” says Rodgers. “We were bitterly disappointed to lose to Armagh in the recent Division Two final but now we have a great chance to make amends for that. A lot of guys who did not start against Donegal are very keen to earn starting places against Tyrone.”
While James McCartan can anticipate a Rodgers return, his Tyrone counterpart Mickey Harte is not so fortunate.
Ball-winner Adrian Cassidy is out because of a dislocated ankle, meaning Colm Cavanagh and Kevin Hughes are likely to be paired again at midfield.
Hughes put in a five-star performance in the win over Antrim but although Cavanagh started well, he faded.
Given the imposing display by King in Down’s win against Donegal, Harte may exercise his option to move Sean Cavanagh back into midfield to counter that.
King seems certain to start and with Rogers likely to come in, Gordon could find himself at full-forward where he has played with some success in the past.