Rooney maps out Down’s next steps

By Michael McMullan

MICÉAL Rooney is all too aware of how the wheels began to fall off the Down promotion bandwagon last season.

While the main focus is getting back to Division Two and putting Down “back on the map” the short term is all about winning games.

In the world of promotion, the next game is the only currency anyone can deal in. Rooney and Down are no different.

After winning their first two games in 2023, defeats to both Fermanagh and Cavan in the mid part of the league saw Down miss out on promotion by virtue of head-to-head.

“This was the stage last year when we fell down in Ederney against Fermanagh, so we knew today was a very, very important game,” the Kilcoo defender said after Sunday’s win over Antrim.

In the grand scheme of things, it was just two league points in a difficult game with Down never having played at Corrigan Park before and with players new to inter-county senior action.

Rooney admitted their shot execution is an area for improvement but is happy to be creating chances. Down had 12 wides and passed up a handful of goal opportunities.

“In the second half, the fitness we have been working on showed and at least we are creating those chances and hopefully they’ll (scores) come as the games go on,” said Rooney who also spoke of the extra work the Down squad are putting in away from the training field.

“Everybody wants to put Down football in a better place,

“These games are very important in that but this is a very small step in where we want to go to.”

Offaly will be given the same respect as every other opponent as Down welcome them to Páirc Esler this weekend

“There are still another three or four tough games to go in this league and we will have treat every team with the same respect we showed Antrim and the teams we played before them.

“We are not silly and we know where we have put ourselves,” Rooney said of life in Division Three and the step by step path they hope to take towards promotion.

“We are trying very hard to put Down football back on the map again. We are trying to get young lads and girls wanting to play for Down and wanting the big days.

“We are watching the teams, an entire division above, and we want to be there some day.

“We know the work we have to do and we need to keep listening to what the management team are telling us.”

Rooney welcomes the input of the management team under Conor Laverty. Ciarán Meenagh joined Declan Morgan, Marty Clarke and Mickey Donnelly ahead of the new season.

“It is a really good dynamic, every part of the management team bring their own thing they are good at and they are valued, every single one of them,” said Rooney, who joked about having to take direction from Laverty after playing alongside him with Kilcoo.

“We are listening to that, hoping we can get to the next level but we are moving in the right direction.”

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