By Michael McMullan
DOWN ladies are not going to get their two opening league defeats define their season insists Laoise Duffy.
After winning last year’s All-Ireland Junior title there has been a spike in interest in the ladies games across the county.
There was disappointment in their performance away to Roscommon in their season opener before coming up narrowly short in a game of missed chances against Wexford.
Down travel to Sligo on Sunday hoping to get their season off the ground.
“Division Three is extremely competitive and it is a hard division to get out of,” said Duffy, who heads towards a decade in the Down senior jersey.
“We are disappointed to have lost the first two league games but we are not going to let it define our season.
“We have our focus in the team that is external to winning whatever league or competition (we are in).
“We are focussing on the goals we have within the team and we’ll keep improving and hopefully get a few wins.”
After winning last year’s All-Ireland, keeping their management of Peter Lynch and Caoibhe Sloan on board was another plus. After an extended season, the squad was afforded adequate rest time before the grind of a new season.
Like every other year, there is a focus on improvement. This time it’s about polishing off the skills that bit more.
The younger players coming in have been given a helping hand on the strength and conditioning front. It’s about getting up to speed.
She name-checks Niamh McClorey’s progress and how she has put her hand up for the management to take a further look.
“It is great to see the younger girls come in and get more confident in their play,” Duffy said.
“We have learned a lot from the first two (league) games. The first game we had, we were very disappointed with how we played.
“The last game against Wexford, we were a lot happier with our performance, our structure and how we played together.”
Their togetherness was helped by last year’s run to the All-Ireland final and the bond has grown from being in each other’s company.
Outside of the group, the footprint of success was significant. The support from young girls and clubs across the county is notable.
There is also the publicity playing a major final brings with young giers getting a chance to see a Down team competing for silverware at Croke Park.
“It has raised a lot more interest,” Duffy added.
“There were trials for the u-14 county team a few weeks ago and record numbers showed up for it so the interest within the county has grown.”
It was the same within Duffy’s own club in Bredagh where the county’s silverware was on show. The county players were invited for a meet and greet at underage coaching sessions
“It has been lovely and so good to see the girls and they are all buzzing,” Duffy added.
“The younger ones, when the coaches ask if they’ve any questions, every one of them has their hand up to ask a question.
“That has been great and the club has been so supportive of us with the county to push on.”
While Down will be hoping for a first win against Sligo this weekend, Antrim are in the same boat when they travel to take on Wexford.
Elsewhere, Louth host Offaly in Darver with Clare entertaining Roscommon in the top of the table clash in Ennis.