By Shaun Casey
CONOR Laverty’s first competitive outing as Down manager, after the pre-season competition of the McKenna Cup, was a long trip south to Tipperary. This weekend, the Mourne men will make the same journey in round two of the Tailteann Cup.
Down will be hoping for a similar result as goals from Pat Havern and Conor Francis guided Laverty’s side to a three-point win that night. Down got their Tailteann Cup campaign off to a winning start last weekend, dismantling Waterford after a below-par first half.
It was a game in which Ross Carr, son of former Down great Ross Carr senior, earned his first competitive start. He didn’t play the last time Down made the voyage to Thurles, but his performance last week puts him in with a good chance of keeping the number eight shirt.
“I came on against Armagh (for my championship debut) but that was my first championship start,” said Carr after Down’s 11-point home win over Waterford.
“It was a tough one to come into, Waterford definitely gave it to us in the first half. They brought real intensity; you could tell that they had nothing to lose. But thankfully we just grinded it out. Our legs took us over the line eventually, but it was a good test.
“Tipperary had a good test against Meath, and you know going down to Thurles, Semple Stadium will be tough, it is what it is. It’s a bigger field and it’ll be a tougher test but this team, we saw during the league, has always dug it out when the crunch time comes so that’s all we can do.
“At least we’ve had a win there already this year, we’re not going down not knowing what to expect. We’ve been there before, and we’ve got the win so hopefully we can go now and do the same this week.”
Carr made no bones about it. The quickest route to the All-Ireland series next season is by winning this years Tailteann Cup and Down are in no position to turn their nose up at the chance of meaningful silverware.
“Down, everybody knows, hasn’t had a lot of silverware this last while,” added Carr.
“The u-20s have been brilliant, they’ve brought us a bit of silverware but we’re in no real position to be looking down on anything.
“Whatever we can do in the Tailteann Cup, best scenario, you’re in the Sam Maguire next year so that’s all we can do is try and go and win it.”
Conor Laverty mixed his team up from the side that lost to Armagh in the Ulster semi-final and Carr puts that down to the performances on the training ground.
“There’s a real love in the squad but when you get to the training field, every man is looking for the same jersey so there’s definitely no love lost on the training field. It stays there, and everybody is fighting for the same jersey, and you can tell that when boys step out on to the field, everybody has that hunger.”