Joe McDonagh Cup round Four
Carlow v Down
Saturday, Dr Cullen Park, 2pm
By Shaun Casey
DOWN may not be entering must-win territory just yet, but defeat to Carlow on Saturday would pile the pressure on their Joe McDonagh Cup status.
It’s a big game for the Mourne men according to manager Ronan Sheehan, who defeated Carlow by one point in the opening round of the league.
“If we win it, we’re still in with a chance of making the final. If we lose, we go into that final game against Meath needing to win that,” said Sheehan.
“It’s a big game for us and we want to win it, primarily to give ourselves a chance of making the final in Croke Park and it’s definitely a game we feel we can win. We’ve beaten them the last two times we’ve played them.”
It’s been a tough three weeks for Down, but they took advantage of a week’s break.
“We had a couple of training sessions, but we didn’t do too much now over the last week or so. A lot of rest, a lot of tired bodies. You’d probably argue we’ve had our hardest three games first, Kerry away and then the two Division One teams.
“By the end of the game against Offaly, lads were fairly tired, and we were picking up a fair few niggly injuries here and there. The couple of weeks break will do us no harm in terms of recharging the batteries and getting back at it.
“It’s been a tough campaign thus far in terms of physicality and the three games in a row is tough going on players, particularly given that we didn’t have a massive break between the National League and the start of the Joe McDonagh, so it’s been fairly hectic for the guys.”
Down defeated Kerry on the opening day before losing to both Antrim and Offaly, but Sheehan believes there were positives to take from those outings against two Division One opposition.
“The Antrim game was disappointing in that we gave them a couple of goals and the game got away from us very quickly as a result of that. We were disappointed with the result even though we did score 3-14, 3-15 from play in that game so there were some positives there.
“The Offaly game, we were right in it. Ultimately, we lost in the end but when we were looking at it in terms of chances created, both ourselves and Offaly created the exact same number of chances.
“Their conversion was slightly better and that’s what resulted in them winning the game. We take confidence from that, from the fact we’re able to compete against the likes of Offaly. When we headed into the start of the Joe McDonagh, we wanted to have at least two points from our first three games.
“We have those two points, now we’ve got two big games against Carlow and Meath coming up. We win both of those and if other results go our way, we’re still in with a chance of making the final.”