BY KIERAN LYNCH
DOWN are hoping to build on a solid league campaign when they get their Ulster Championship tilt underway against Fermanagh this weekend.
The Mourne ladies won five games out of seven, but it wasn’t enough, as they came up just short in their promotion bid. However, Peter Lynch, who co-manages the team alongside Caoibhe Sloan, is happy with the direction they are going in.
“We had a decent enough league,” he said.
“We won five out of seven and the two teams that beat us, Clare and Kildare were in the Division Three final.
“We are happy enough with where we are and happy with how we have been playing. Regarding the two games that we lost, we learned a lot from them, and they applied themselves well.”
Down are now entering the Ulster Junior Championship following their relegation from intermediate grade last year, but they will go into the competition with a strong degree of confidence.
During the league, Down played against six intermediate level teams, winning four of those encounters, and Lynch is hoping that form translates into the Junior Championship.
“Logic would say that would help you, but championship is different,” he said.
“You often see teams that have an average league campaign and then have an injection of energy when the championship comes, so you take nothing for granted. It is a good foundation though.”
Lynch and Sloan weren’t managers when Down were relegated last season, however their core of the squad were part of a disappointing campaign, and Lynch says that the players have hunger ‘to do better’ and get back up to intermediate.
“I think the players were more hurt than anyone last year by getting relegated to junior, they feel heavily responsible for that,” he said.
“Nobody is blaming anybody, it was just unfortunate circumstances at the end of last year, but the players and management will always hurt more than supporters.
“That is driving them on, they want to do better, and they want to get Down back up in the grades.”
Down will have their sights set on winning the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, but Lynch refuted the ‘favourites’ tag.
“Ultimately our target is to get back to intermediate,” he said.
“People have said to me, ‘sure Down are favourites’, but I think that is a ridiculous thing to say. Sligo are Limerick two very tough, sticky opponents, we played both those teams in recent years and Sligo beat us a couple of times, so it is a tough group to get out of.
“The Ulster Championship doesn’t have any bearing on what happens, every game you play now is championship football and everyone has the same ambition and target.”
Before they can start to think about All-Ireland glory, they have Fermanagh and Derry standing in their way and Lynch isn’t taking anything for granted this weekend.
“They are tough challenges, Fermanagh were in the Junior All-Ireland final last year and James (Daly) is a very experienced manager, he will have them well drilled and organised, and we expect a tough game.”