1 Things can only get better
Things literally couldn’t have gone worse for Down last season and all of the Mourne County fans will be glad 2022 has run its course. James McCartan was appointed manager, filling the gap that couldn’t be filled, and had a torrid time at the helm. Down were relegated to Division Three without winning a single game in the league and a round three draw against Meath proved to be the only point they got on the board. Players leaving, fall outs, drinking bans being broke, things didn’t improve much ahead of the championship. They gave a spirited performance against Monaghan in Ulster, but were well off the pace and eventually crashed out of the Tailteann Cup at the hands of finalists Cavan. A year without a win for Down. Things can only get better.
2 New man in charge
With James McCartan stepping aside after just one year in charge, it was clear there was only ever going to be one man for the job, if he wanted it. Conor Laverty surely debated the role in his head and spent numerous hours making out a pros and cons list, but at the end of the day it’s a huge opportunity for the Kilcoo star, possibly too big to turn down. It’s a rebuilding process for Down and Laverty will literally be starting from scratch. One of his first objectives will be to get all the best players, clubmates included, back in the red and black and push on from there. If that’s the case, Down can target a strong Division Three campaign and all eyes will be on their championship opener with Donegal.
3 Hurling hopes
The Down hurlers experienced a superb 2022 season, finishing top of the Division 2A league table and reaching the league final. Although on the cusps of promotion, Down probably gave their worst performance of the season in the decider and were well beaten by Westmeath on the day. They also earned two wins in the McDonagh Cup but for next year, the league will once again be the big target. With Offaly coming down from the top tier, they’ll be the immediate favourites to bounce right back to Division One, but as Down showed last year in the championship, they’ll have absolutely no fear of the Faithful County or anyone else. With the Diarmuid ‘The Rock’ O’Sullivan back in a coaching capacity, 2023 could be yet another big year for Down hurling.
4 Clonduff pave the way on camogie front
Down club football usually claims all the headlines, due to the success of Kilcoo on both the provincial and national stage, but the club hurling and camogie teams that landed Ulster titles this season deserve some recognition too. Clonduff got back on top in the province as they saw off old rivals Eglish in the final, with Paula O’Hagan and Beth Fitzpatrick leading the line for the Down girls as they won by three-points in the end. In hurling, Liatroim created history as they got their hands on a first ever Ulster title, at the fourth attempt, with goals from Conor McCrickard and PJ Davidson, along with some heroic defending at the back from Ruairi McCrickard, seeing Colm Murphy’s side over the line against Middletown.
5 Everything comes to an end
Kilcoo’s reign as Ulster and All-Ireland champions came crashing down this year as they came up against a driven and a hungry Glen side, but what a run it’s been for Kilcoo. The Magpies were the best club team in the land in 2021 and they finally got Mickey Moran up the steps of the Hogan Stand and showed serious skill and determination to do so. They’re still the kingpins of Down and they served up a classic Ulster final against the Derry champions, but it just wasn’t to be in the end. No doubt Kilcoo will be back with the added punch that has got them this far, but on reflection it’s been an awesome few years for them.