Portaferry set for Thurles semi-final trip
PORTAFERRY manager Sean Young admits that he and his players would have travelled to Cork if someone had offered them an All-Ireland semi-final place this time last year.
So it's no great surprise that Young and his Ulster champions are seeing the positives in a trip to the iconic Semple Stadium for their meeting with Limerick's Munster champions Kilmallock on February 7.
It's 198-and-a-bit miles from Portaferry to Thurles but Young says travelling any further than Dublin would always have required an overnight stay.
"Anywhere outside Dublin we were going to be leaving on the Friday anyway, so it's not going to affect the players' preparation for the match," he said.
"We always had it in our head that we'd be staying over on the Friday night if it was outside Dublin.
"We have talked about it in a team meeting and there was a bit of communication between the fixtures committee and the club to see what we thought on it. We said 'if we knew this time last year we'd be sitting arguing over the venue for an All-Ireland semi-final we'd have played at Pairc Ui Chaoimh'.
"To be playing on one of, if not the, best hurling pitches in the country... sure, why not embrace it?"
Ulster football champions Slaughtneil also face a road trip for their All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry and Munster winners Austin Stack's. They meet on February 15 at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise.
Young has three weeks before Portaferry take to the field against a Kilmallock side that will include the likes of Graham and Jake Mulcahy and Brian O'Sullivan.
Portaferry have never been in this sort of company before but Young is confident his players will give a good account of themselves in the semi-final.
"We're not going down thinking that winning Ulster was the endgame," he said.
"You look at the Ulster teams that have gone down over the years - the Cushendalls, the great Dunloy team of the 1990s, Loughgiel recently. They've all gone down and they've all held their own. It's a level playing field at this time of the year, at club level especially, and we're not going down for an 'oul weekend away."
Saturday, February 7 AIB All-Ireland SHC semi-finals, Thurles, (2pm): Kilmallock (Limerick) v Portaferry (Down), (4pm): Gort (Galway) v Ballyhale (Kilkenny)
Saturday, February 14 AIB All-Ireland SFC semi-final, Tullamore, (2pm): Corofin (Galway) v St Vincent's (Dublin) Sunday, February 15 AIB All-Ireland SFC semi-final, Portlaoise, (4pm): Austin Stack's (Kerry) v Slaughtneil (Derry)