Down wary of Kildare, says Keith

By Shaun Casey

GIVEN their recent history with Kildare, Down won’t be underestimating their opponents this weekend and will be on their guard as they hope to pick up another two points while their opponents are searching for their first win of the campaign.

Down suffered a first-round defeat at the hands of Laois before bouncing back to overcome Kerry in their last outing while Kildare travel to Ballycran on Sunday having lost to Leinster opponents Meath and Laois.

The Mourne County faced Kildare twice last season, and both sides enjoyed one victory apiece, with Down’s win coming in the final round of the Joe McDonagh Cup which saved their status and relegated their opponents.

“The league we’re in is a great league because if you’re not at it on any given day then you’ll be beat, and anybody can beat anybody else,” said experienced Down goalkeeper Stephen Keith.

“The first match, Kildare were probably favourites against Meath and Meath turned them over and Kerry were probably favourites to beat us, but we turned them over.

“We beat Kildare last year and it was more or less a relegation game for the Joe McDonagh Cup, and it kept us up and sent them down, so they’ll probably try to get a bit of payback against us this weekend.

“But they did beat us last year in the league and we have a bit of history there with Kildare over the last three or four years. They beat us in a Christy Ring final (2020) in Croke Park as well and they beat us last year so it’s always a tough game.

“We’ll know exactly what to expect against them and we know what’s coming at us, so we have to make sure that we’re ready for it.”

Down’s bright start to 2024 has been encouraging, especially given how last season panned out. They clung on to both their league and Joe McDonagh Cup status, but things are looking up now for Ronan Sheehan’s men.

They may have lost in the first round against Laois but put in a solid display while they got off the mark against the Kingdom with a seven-point victory.

“We’re had a good start but to be honest we were probably a bit disappointed with our result in Laois, we thought we’d done enough in the second half to go and win the game or even push on for a draw,” added Keith.

“But we got a man sent off and that evened things up again and Laois are a good team, and they came back at us. We were happy with how we hurled, and we can talk about the good performance, but it counted for nothing because we still lost at the end of the day.

“We knew we’d played well the week before, but we lost so if we lost again to Kerry, our backs would have been against the wall, so it was good to get those first two points on the board.”

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