Down aiming to build confidence

By Kieran Lynch

DOWN haven’t enjoyed the easiest of seasons to this point, and whilst Sunday’s upcoming clash against Carlow won’t impact their Joe McDonagh Cup status, it’s a chance to build confidence and momentum ahead of a relegation decider in round five.

The Mourne County have yet to win a competitive fixture in 2023, as they finished with four defeats and a draw in Division 2A of the league, and their championship campaign has gone anything but to script with 12-point losses against Kerry and Offaly, coming either side of a 31-point drubbing at the hands of Laois.

However, manager Ronan Sheehan believes that their results don’t necessarily tell the story of their performances.

“It has probably been a case of not taking our chances,” he said.

“Against Kerry we hit the crossbar, we missed a penalty, we missed seven scoreable frees and probably should have been in the hunt at the end of the game.

“Laois was just one of those days, but against Offaly, there were three points in it with about 10 minutes to go, but we missed six frees from within 50 yards late in the game, which hurt us.

“We’re creating enough chances, but we’re just not taking them at the minute.”

Despite their run, Sheehan says that the mood has remained good in the dressing room ahead of the Carlow game.

“Obviously, everybody prefers to be winning, but the mood in the camp is pretty good; we’re under no illusions regarding the strength of the competition we’re in,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the likes of Offaly, Carlow and Laois have all been in the All-Ireland series in the past five years, so that’s a massive challenge. But it’s a challenge that we relish, and one that we want to ensure that we’re able to maintain, in terms of continuing to play at this level.

“But nothing comes easy at this level. It has been a big challenge, but the mood is good amongst the boys, because they knew that it was always going to be a battle to stay up.

“We’re not despondent, far from it; we feel that we have got a good chance of retaining our status, and we’re looking forward to the next two games.”

Based on results to this point in the championship, no matter what happens for Down against Carlow this weekend, it is going to come down to the final game against Kildare to determine if they stay up or not.

However, Sheehan believes his side can use Sunday’s fixture as a means of putting in a good performance.

“Our focus is very much on getting a performance on Sunday, and improving our scoring ratio, and taking that into the game against Kildare,” he said.

“We always win to win – particularly our home games, we owe that to ourselves.

“At home to Kerry, we didn’t perform anywhere near the standard that we would have liked.

“We don’t fear Carlow; they beat us in the league by 17 points, but the last two times we have played Carlow in Ballycran, we have beaten them.”

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