Down ready for inaugural All-Ireland ‘B’ final

By Niall Gartland

DOWN u-20s have embraced the new All-Ireland ‘B’ competition and they can create a slice of history by becoming the first team to win the tournament if they get the better of Westmeath on Saturday.

It slipped under the radar somewhat but the Mourne lads came out on top of a seriously competitive semi-final contest against Mayo last weekend, showing immense character in the closing stages to carve out a one-point victory.

Jointly managed by Neil Coulter and Paul McCartan, they’re fiercely determined to go all the way in the competition, and the extra games have proven massively beneficial in terms of the development of these young players.

Burren man Coulter commented: “The beauty about the ‘B’ competition is that there’s more games for the lads, whereas before it was just a knock-out and you were training for maybe three months for one game.

“We had a really demanding series of group stage matches in Ulster, we had to play Tyrone, Monaghan and Derry and I think that stood to us in the ‘B’ competition. In the past young lads at this level may only have got one game for their county if things didn’t go to plan in Ulster but now they’re getting half-a-dozen, which is brilliant.”

Down booked their place in the final with a nail-biting victory over Mayo, and while it may ‘only’ be the second-tier competition, there was plenty of good football on show in a game that went right to the wire.

Coulter said: “Our players have all bought into the competition, we’ve been training away and have definitely taken it seriously.

“We came through a really tough battle against Mayo, it was nip and tuck the whole way through. Mayo beat Galway and drew with Roscommon earlier on so we knew it was going to be tough and we were two points down with four minutes to go. To come back and win by a point was fantastic, it showed the character that’s in these boys and the subs made a big impact as well.”

Standing in Down’s way of the title is Westmeath, a county not especially associated with success at underage level. They haven’t fared too badly at all though recently, losing the last two Leinster finals, and they qualified for the All-Ireland ‘B’ showdown with a dominant victory over Limerick.

Coulter said: “We definitely won’t be underestimating Westmeath, we’ve seen a few videos of them and they’re a good side. It’ll be a tough game again but the main thing is that we’re in the final and it’s a great opportunity for our lads.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW