By Kieran Lynch
A LEAGUE final spot is possible for Down, but out of their hands this weekend.
A Kildare win over Wexford and Clare failing to defeat Longford would open the door for Down, whilst a three-way tie on 15 points will see points difference be required to separate the sides.
However, none of that will matter for Down if they can’t defeat Louth on Sunday, and co-manager Caoibhe Sloan says that their focus is exclusively on what they can control.
“There is no way of knowing what’s going to happen elsewhere,” said Sloan.
“We just have to go out, do the best we can, and hope that it will be good enough.
“Even if we don’t go up, it’s another opportunity to evaluate our players, and see how their working within the game-plan, because it’s only a few shorts weeks until the championship starts.
“Our focus is 100 per cent on Sunday, and hitting our performance targets on Sunday, because that’s all that we can control.
“Louth are going to provide a stern test, and they proved that by winning their first four games. They have a number of sharp shooters, they’re a well-oiled unit, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Regardless of whether Down reach the league final or not, the Mourne County can take pride from a campaign where they have won four of their last five games, and Sloan, who co-manages alongside Peter Lynch, believes that they have learned a lot from their league campaign.
“After our first game against Kildare (a 3-13 to 0-6 loss), our focus became less about winning and more about hitting our performance targets, because we definitely didn’t that day,” she said.
“In football you want to be hitting your performance objectives the majority of the time, and so far in our league campaign we have, with four wins in our last five, and we’re happy with the layers that we have been able to add to our game-plan each week.
“Even in the loss against Clare, people are sick of listening to us say ‘win or learn’ but we did learn an awful lot that day. Cusack Park in Ennis is one of the biggest pitches in the country and that was an experience in itself.”
Following their relegation last year, Down will ply their trade in the All-Ireland Junior Championship this season, but they will take great encouragement from their performances and results in Division Three.
Six of the other seven sides in the division play at Intermediate grade, and Sloan believes getting games against quality opposition will help Down ahead of their championship campaign.
“That’s one of our main priorities – to be competing with those teams,” she said.
“I know a lot of the girls are still hurting from that relegation last year, and they wanted to go out and put things right in the league.
“Junior is very competitive this year and nothing is a given for anybody, but the girls are keen to go out and play good football, and getting these games will stand to them, because ultimately Intermediate level is where we want to be.”