By Kieran Lynch
WITH the Down Championship coming right around the corner, Carryduff are gearing up to open their campaign against Conor Deegan’s Bryansford.
Before then however, they have to conclude their league campaign against Ballyholland on Friday night, and Carryduff manager Finnian Moriarty reflected on what he has learned up to this point, in his first year in charge.
“The standard is very high in Down’s first division,” he said.
“We had a run where we lost a few games in a row, which left us playing catch-up, and we missed out on the top four, which we would have liked to have been in. It would have been great to have got the opportunity to get to play the best teams. But that goes for every other team in the division.
“But it has been good to see the level of the other teams, as we try to develop a system of play for ourselves, to take us forward into the championship.”
Once the league is over, Bryansford lie in wait, and Moriarty is expecting a tough battle in their championship opener, next weekend.
“We’re not looking any further than Bryansford – I expect it to be a very difficult game,” Moriarty conceded.
“We actually played them up there last week and they beat us 0-9 to 0-7. Danny Savage, Conor McGinn and Ryan O’Higgins are very strong players, and Conor Deegan has them playing well. We’ll just focus on ourselves, but Bryansford are a very good team.”
Of course, Kilcoo have dominated the Down Championship in recent times, winning 10 of the last 11 on offer, but last year, Carryduff pushed the Magpies all the way, losing by one point after extra-time in the quarter-final. That should be enough to give them belief that they are right in the mix for contention once again this year.
“It’s definitely not a one-horse race, but there is one horse that has been performing better than everybody else for the last 10 years,” said Moriarty of the state of play in the Down Championship.
“But last year the game went into extra-time and obviously the boys were unlucky; there was a stage with seven or eight minutes to go when the game was level and they missed a couple of chances.
“There are maybe seven or eight teams who can win the championship in Down, and that’s just the nature of it. You’d have to be a brave betting man not to have Kilcoo in the final, but time will tell I suppose.”
However, with the championship on the horizon, Moriarty’s side have been handed a devastating blow, as key man James Guinness suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligament in his knee, and he is due to miss a year of football.
“James is going to be out for a year, and that’s a massive loss for us, because he is our captain this year,” explained Moriarty.
“He’s a top, top player who is very important to us and that’s a massive blow. It’s very disappointing for James himself, because he hadn’t played with the Down team this year, because he decided that he wanted to focus on club football, and his attitude and application has been top drawer all year.
“But all teams have injuries, and somebody will step into his place and the boys will have to share the leadership on the field.”