By Shaun Casey
SAVAL are relishing the “massive opportunity” to compete in the Ulster Championship as they travel to Inniskeen this weekend to take on Monaghan champions Corduff.
Former Down star Danny Hughes took his native club to the promised land in the Mourne County and is now aiming for more success in the provincial competition.
“It’s brilliant, we have to be realistic about what we have as a club,” said the 2010 All-Star. “We’re a rural enough club and we pick from the same families and the same wider group year in, year out.
“For us, we’ve done really well in the past.
“When I was playing, we were playing in the Senior Championship, we got to a semi-final of a Senior Championship, but we haven’t been able to make that breakthrough to get to a senior final.
“As a club we’ve only ever been in one senior final in 1981 and we were beaten in a replay, so we have a bit of history there.
“The fact that the Ulster Club Intermediate Championship is there is massive, it’s massive. For us to put our club on the map within Ulster and within Ireland is a massive opportunity.
“The boys have been fantastic; I couldn’t speak of them highly enough. They’ve worked really hard, and they haven’t once complained. We’re there and we’re there to go and win the competition, why not?”
Having now won the Down Intermediate Championship for the first time since 1995, Saval are facing into the unknown and coming up against fresh challenges.
“That’s the brilliant part about it. You can get a bit misty eyed when you go outside your own county and feel that maybe the grass is greener or the standard’s better in other counties.
“Especially since Down, as a county team, we haven’t been going that well, although we’re the home of the All-Ireland Club champions.
“It gives us a great opportunity to go out into the province and see what the standard is like. I believe that we’re as good as anybody else out there and I’m confident that we have the players that can win on any given day.”
Hughes and Saval may not know a whole pile about their opponents, but he’ll need no introduction to his opposite number come Saturday night. Corduff are led by former Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney and he, like Hughes, is hoping to guide his home club to provincial success.
“’Banty’ is a shrewd operator, obviously a very successful manager in his own right at county level and all the rest and it’s his own club so there’ll be a huge passion there from his side and a big carrot there for him.
“We did our homework on Rostrevor in the final and we felt we could go and win the game.
“We did of course focus on several match ups and getting our stuff right but ultimately it comes down to the boys.
“They’ve been brilliant and ultimately, they’re the ones that have to do it on the field, I can’t do it for them.”