Downpatrick hoping to flip result

By Niall McCoy

TWO of the four Down quarter-finals in the coming days are repeat pairings from earlier in the competition, and for RGU Downpatrick’s Conor O’Neill he is hoping for a change in fortunes.

After an opening win over Saul, the Hoops came up against Clonduff and lost by seven points to the Hilltown outfit before a qualifier victory over Castlewellan brought them to the last eight.

O’Neill is part of a management team with Paul Evans and Danny Carville, is hoping that they have learned enough lessons from the loss to flip the result when the teams meet on Saturday (Liatroim, 7.30pm).

“For ourselves, we came out on the losing end and we know we have to change,” he said.

“There is quite a bit of that within our own control, we made a couple of unfortunate mistakes that allowed the game to slip away from us but there were a lot of positives to take from it too.

“We’re coming up against a very strong and seasoned Clonduff team who were playing Division One football week in, week out.

“That was a big step up for us, as a Division Two side, but we’ve sat down, we’ve analysed it, as you do, and we’ll focus on our strengths and try and eliminate those unforced errors.

“We have to respect those Clonduff strengths as well but hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves.”

Downpatrick operated in Division Two this year and earned a credible third-place finish, but the return of a number of players has bolstered their championship preparations.

“We had a few long-term injuries and some of those boys came back at the tail-end of the league season,” O’Neill continued.

“That was great, getting them back into the squad. Those injuries also gave us a chance during the league to blood some youth as well, which has been vital.

“We have plenty of experience in the squad but nearly because of those injuries, we had to change our focus in the league and it was an opportunity to develop and reintegrate lads who maybe hadn’t been in the squad over the last number of seasons.

“Combine that with the returning boys for the championship, it has left us with a good squad and a few headaches – which is what we wanted.”

Undoubtedly the tie of the round will see holders Kilcoo face league champions Carryduff for the second time in a number of weeks.

The Magpies issued a statement of intent in their first meeting, Callum Rogers’ finding the net towards the end of the first half in a 1-13 to 0-10 win. What was due to be a real examination turned into a fairly routine win.

That sent Carryduff into the knock-out rounds and after an expected win over Saul, last Monday they got the result that manager Finnian Moriarty will hope will reignite their challenge.

That was a one-point win over Loughinisland, the side they had battled with for league honours, although the lad sending off of John McGeough was a massive blow.

Daniel Guinness, Joe Tunney and Sean McGonigle all caught the eye, but they’ll need even more if they are to end Kilcoo’s dominance in Downpatrick on Sunday (4pm).

Mayobridge are fancied to reach a semi-final when they come up against a Glenn side on Monday (Kilcoo, 7.15pm) that will play in Division Three next year – but they should be cautious.

Glenn may have struggled in the league this season, but they are a side that comes alive in the championship as Saval and Longstone have found to their peril – and with players like Niall McParland, John O’Hare, Denis Murtagh, Shay Millar and Jack McCartan to call on, Stevie Clarke’s side cannot be taken lightly.

The final quarter-final will see Burren facing Ballyholland in Newry on Sunday (7pm).

After a hard-fought win over Warrenpoint, Burren were surprisingly comfortable against Loughinisland last time out as they rattled the net four times.

The Blues had beaten Ballyholland prior to that, but they responded by trashing Saval and Longstone, the combined winning margin over the two games a massive 27 points.

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