By Shaun Casey
THE Down Ladies are embracing the “privilege” of pulling on the red and black jersey and representing their county.
Joint-manager Caoibhe Sloan suggests that the Mourne ladies are enjoying the journey that has led them to the All-Ireland Junior semi-final.
“There’s definitely that wee bit of added weight, much like the Ulster final, this is do or die and that’s it for us,” said Sloan.
“We’re lucky that we never really were focused on an end goal, myself and Peter (Lynch, the Down joint-manager) would be very much process driven and you have to enjoy the journey.
“If you get to the end, that medal would mean nothing to you if you didn’t enjoy the Tuesday’s or the lashing rain on Friday nights. If you don’t enjoy all of those then what’s it about really. When you look back, it’s actually the craic and the hard work, that’s what it’s really all about.
“Mark Poland would always say that every time you pull on the Down jersey it’s a privilege and these girls have really embraced that mantra. It’s an absolute privilege to represent your county and they’re showing that pride every time they go out.”
Down take on Carlow this Sunday (Parnell Park 2pm) with an All-Ireland final appearance the prize on offer for the winner.
Sloan insists her side are looking forward to the challenge that’s ahead, taking on an unknown entity in Carlow, a side they have no real recent history with.
“People can’t wait to get out and train when you’re at this stage of the year,” added Sloan. “Everybody is absolutely buzzing and dying for the challenge that’s ahead.
“We’re keeping ourselves grounded, we’re very much aware that this could be it and all of your long, hard training could be over. There’ll be a kick of a ball in it no doubt and we know that the season could come to an abrupt end, so you have that nervous energy too.
“But the girls are focused and they’re excited, their looking forward to the new challenge. Every time you go out it’s a new challenge, you don’t know what you’re going to face.
“We have a new challenge again in Carlow, a team that we haven’t played even since me and Peter were there previously in ’19, ’20 and ’21. This is the first in a while, so it definitely is a new game and new territory.
“Down ladies football, we feel like it’s in a good place and there’s so many young players driving to get onto that squad. There are girls not listed in our match day programme that are absolutely emptying it and giving everything every time they come out.
“It’s a really healthy place to be and we’re delighted with that, and we know that if it’s not on Sunday, it will come, and Down football will progress to where it should be. There’s definitely a feel-good factor about it and we’re loving every minute of it, as are the girls.”