Down U20 hurlers go in search of All-Ireland glory

By Michael McMullan

AFTER an indifferent start to the year, Down u-20 hurlers are now a different team ahead of Saturday’s Richie McElligott Cup final, insists Michael Dorrian.

Scorer of a goal in the All-Ireland B final win over Roscommon – their opponents this weekend – two years ago, Dorrian highlights the regret of not retaining the title last season. They should never have lost to the Rossies in the semi-final.

It comes after the county’s u-20 footballers won the All-Ireland B title last weekend.

“The past few months we’ve really locked in and got boys together and been training hard and we’re definitely a different team now,” said the Ballygalget man.

After losing many of last year’s side, it took time to take stock of the 2024 group and realise that they’ve quality at their disposal again.

“We’ve been training away and we know we’ve still got a very good team and we’re definitely very capable of winning,” he said of their chances against Roscommon who will be hoping to avoid a third consecutive final defeat.

With players involved in Ronan Sheehan’s senior group and with players needed to weigh in with their clubs, it has been a balancing act.

“We’ve been released one night a week to go to a club and play certain matches and things like that,” said Dorrian, a student at Ulster University.

“There’s clubs that just have seven or eight boys on this u-20s team that need the seven or eight boys to be playing bits and bobs for them.

“So it has been tricky enough but we’ve worked around it and the clubs have definitely been supportive of us winning this.”

At senior level, the county has a degree of consistency that they hope the u-20s will slot into. Three or four u-20s would’ve been dipping into senior training.

Dorrian was part of the winning team when St Patrick’s, Downpatrick won the Mageean Cup, a success that has helped widen the base of players coming into the county side.

“I’d say 90 per cent of our team is more or less the Ards Peninsula, Portaferry, Ballycran, Ballygalget,” he said.

“You’ve got maybe six or seven boys from Castlewellan and Liatroim, Bredagh and things like that.

“It definitely shows that this team, it’s not just an Ards team, there’s a widespread of all the boys chipping in and putting the shoulder to the wheel.”

For the second year in a row, the final will take place at Croke Park and will be a curtain raider to the senior football clash of Roscommon and Dublin.

“Honestly, it’s an honour to play in Croke Park for everyone,” Dorrian added.

“We’re all looking forward to it but we’ll not let being in Croke Park get to us.

“We’ve played them (Roscommon) the two years, we beat them one year in the final a couple of years ago and it was a good win.

“Last year, when they beat us, it was probably a match we never should have got beat with the team we had.

“Roscommon did have a good team and in the end they probably deserved to win it.

“I know they’ve got a few of the boys from last year so they’re going to be a tough side to beat but I think we can definitely do it.”

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