Donnelly: Division Three final remains the Mourne main focus

By Michael McMullan

DOWN still have their sights firmly on a place in the league final and a shot at promotion, insists selector Mickey Donnelly.

After winning their first three games, the Mourne County host Offaly on Saturday evening at Páirc Esler and Donnelly highlights the importance of winning their home games.

Down also have Sligo and Clare in Newry with their trip to Westmeath already looking to have the flavour of a top of the table clash.

“We have Offaly and Sligo now, two home games and we need to get four points,” said Donnelly, highlighting how the campaign has been broken down into three “mini leagues” around the two free weekends.

“The league final has always been the focus and that remains the focus,” he said of the importance of keeping the Down train on the tracks.

Picking through their 1-15 to 1-6 victory over Antrim, Donnelly hailed the impact of Danny Magill and Oisin Savage who added to the scoring tally after coming in off the bench.

“We have an athletic group, a lot of lads who can cover a lot of ground and thank God that came to the fore,” he added, referring to their strong finish in Belfast.

The Down management have trawled the county over the past two seasons to see who had something to offer at county level.

It was about finding the balance between getting the key players on board and getting a look at everybody.

“We prided ourselves at getting a look at as many players we could,” Donnelly said of their process of making sure nobody slipped through the net.

Caolan Mooney and Jonny Flynn from Sunday’s win weren’t on board last season.

Another, Savage, who kicked two points, highlights the impact Down’s u-20 success has made on the senior camp. Talented soccer player John McGovern, a regular for Northern Ireland at u-21 level, has joined the squad

Donnelly, who managed his native Tyrone to minor titles and Derry to their last u-20 success, is well placed to comment on the underage pathway.

“It is success, it is as simplistic as that,” he said. “It is winning football matches. You have u-20s, some lads have two (Ulster) medals – Paddy (McCarthy), Odhrán (Murdock) and Ryan Magill have two medals in their pocket.

“They are used to beating other teams in Ulster and that is huge. It is about transferring that to senior level and winning senior matches.”

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