Down skipper Doherty setting her sights high

By Niall Gartland

BY no means have the Down ladies exceeded expectations by making the knock-out rounds of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, insists their ambitious skipper Meghan Doherty.

The Carryduff girl is in the midst of her preparations for this weekend’s last-eight clash against Monaghan, a repeat of their recent Ulster final success at the expense of the very same opposition.

Doherty skippered the Mourne ladies to last year’s All-Ireland Junior title and they haven’t missed a beat in the higher grade, bossing their group ahead of their knock-out clash against Monaghan.

But Doherty is at pains to point out that they see themselves as an Intermediate outfit at the very least, so they’ve no plans of going back to the Junior ranks any time soon.

“It’s not surprising to us that we’ve been having a good championship. I think sometimes people forget that we played at Intermediate for years before going into Junior.

“I know it’s still a step up from last year, but we should never have been relegated in the first place. The girls have been working very hard and we were delighted to win the All-Ireland Junior Championship last year. If you don’t achieve promotion in the first year, you can almost become trapped so we did very well to get back up.”

When Down were pitted against Monaghan in the Ulster Intermediate Championship, there was a sense of heading into the unknown as they rarely cross paths. Down held on for a hard-fought victory, but that’s no guarantee that they’ll repeat the trick against a Farney side backboned by talented younger girls who have won plenty at underage level under their now-senior boss Darren Greenan.

Doherty commented: “It’s a hard game to judge. I can’t remember the last competitive game against them before the Ulster final. In previous years we’d come up against the same teams time and time again and you’d a good idea of what they’d bring to the table. It’s nice in a way to play a new team. In the Ulster final we were ten points up at one stage and only ended up winning by a point so we know it’s going to be a big challenge.”

While consolidation of their intermediate status is well and good, Doherty doesn’t believe it’s beyond the realm of possibilities that they establish themselves as a Senior side in the years to come. She believes that a lot of it comes down to what’s between the ears, while also emphasising the importance of squad stability.

She said: “We’ve come up against Senior teams in friendlies and in theory it seems like a big step up but a lot of it is about having the right mental approach and confidence.

“All county teams are working hard, and I suppose it’s about getting girls to stay on from year to year. The Dublins and Meaths have the same group of girls there year-in year-out and that’s what we need to replicate by bringing the youth in and keeping them, as well as having that batch of more experienced girls. It’ll be difficult but it’s definitely doable.”

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