By Frank Craig
Downings can write the most significant chapter in their history on Sunday if they manage to down Cavan outfit Denn in the Ulster JFC decider.
The Donegal champions overcame highly fancied Monaghan side Sean McDermott’s last time out, 1-9 to 0-8 – and they achieved that feat in dramatic circumstances.
Downings were a point up at the first water break before the sides cancelled each other out in the second quarter as Sean McDermott’s led 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time.
They shaded the third quarter and the Monaghan champions fought back to level the game at seven points apiece at the second water break.
Downings subsequently moved a point clear heading into injury time thanks to a Gary Bán McClafferty brace. And Kyle McFadden would seal a famous victory for his team with a goal four minutes into stoppage time.
Anthony Boyle, a former SFC winner with Killybegs and a member of the Downings management team, said the attitude and application of the players, as they went the distance in the semi-final, was what pleased him most after.
“It’s an exciting time for the club,” he said. “I’m only new to the area but the buzz it’s created… one supporter told me the atmosphere last time out in the stand was electric. In the month of Christmas, this run is giving everyone a real lift.
“We knew what we were up against in McDermott’s. I watched it back since and even though they lost their talisman in Niall Kearns, we were well in the game even when he was on the field of play.
“We’d a black card too (Kevin Doherty) for our own wee bit of indiscipline. And discipline is something we’ve spoken a lot about. Out in the province, you have to have a focus and application. And you just can’t afford to let that slip.
“Like I said, it’s brilliant for the club and parish but as a team and management, we have to keep a certain distance from all of that. We have a job to do. And that’s the important thing to impress upon everyone in the lead-in this week.
“It’s a brilliant occasion yeah but, more importantly, it’s a brilliant opportunity. And finals are for winning. All those things you’ve mentioned are real and are relevant. But they can’t be allowed to be a distraction.”
In regards to Denn and what information the managerial trinity of Boyle, Kevin ‘Cookie’ Gallagher and Barney Curran have managed to gather, the 1995 and ’96 Dr Maguire winner explains that the Breffni men are a formidable force.
“They have some excellent players. And from what we can see, they are definitely the most balanced side we’ll have come across to date. Tomas Corr has over 10 years inter-county experience with Cavan.
“He’s in his late 30s now but remains a block of a man – very athletic and very influential at this level. He shores things up at the back and he’s the guy that really makes them tick. As well as that, Thomas Edward Donohue is a county player that also win the Sigerson Cup with DCU in 2020.”
Going into Sunday’s clash in Clones, Boyle says the squad do have some niggles that they hope clear up by the weekend. And there is no doubt Downings are going to need everyone on board and a little bit of fortune to go their way if they are to topple the pre-game favourites.
“We have a few key men that are carrying knocks. Shane Boyce is heavily bandaged the last few games. He’s having some trouble with the knee. Danny McBride, man of the match in the county final, he wasn’t able to play against the Down champions.
“We got a half out of him last weekend. We just have to look at that and a few others things tonight (Tuesday) and Thursday before we’ll really know how we’re fixed.”