Momentum with Down as Carlow look to spoil party in Dr Cullen Park
Allianz National Football League: Carlow v Down (tomorrow, Dr Cullen Park, 3pm)
MOMENTUM is massive and Down hope it will help to carry them over another formidable obstacle on the road to promotion in Carlow this afternoon.
They haven't always been convincing but with four League wins on-the-trot behind them for the first time since 2010, the Mournemen travel to Dr Cullen Park searching for a fifth which could guarantee a return to Division Two at the first time of asking.
Doing that would be a notable achievement for Paddy Tally in his first season as manager but in his way is a determined and well organised Carlow side that was promoted from the basement division last year – for the first time in 33 years – and started life in the third tier with victory over Sligo and a draw with Westmeath before they were brought back down to earth by back-to-back losses to Longford and Offaly.
Louth, at that stage the unbeaten Division Three leaders, travelled to Dr Cullen Park a fortnight ago as favourites but Carlow turned them over and that victory has served as a timley warning to Tally and his men that the Barrowsiders would like nothing better than to do the same to them this afternoon.
“That just shows you what can happen so we'll not be taking our eye off the ball,” said Tally after his men had ruthlessly disposed of Offaly a fortnight ago.
Down showed an encouraging versatility that night, switching seamlessly from a first half kicking game to a second half running game that cut the Faithful county's rearguard to shreds and led to two goals from Mayobridge youngster Cory Quinn who had emerged as a first half substitute.
Quinn will hope to make a mark from the bench again tomorrow but it was the old guard of Donal O'Hare, Darren O'Hagan and Caolan Mooney that led the way and all three made vital contributions to Down's win.
Mooney is named in midfield alongside Loughinisland clubman Johnny Flynn again and the Mourne pairing will be up against a tried and tested Carlow double act in Brendan and Sean Murphy.
Those two give the Barrowsiders a physical presence in the middle of the park and Rathvilly clubman Brendan Murphy has been a regular source of scores in this campaign, finding the target in four of the five League games with 1-4 so far.
Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien said his side was “fighting relegation” this week and, while they need to a point to ensure survival, he is well aware that they are not out of the promotion shake-up just yet. Full points from their final two games could yet see them force their way into the frame.
Star forward Paul Broderick has returned from injury but the Down defence will also have to keep a close eye on mobile full-forward Darragh Foley who scored four points against Louth was the catalyst for Carlow's stunning set-piece goal. Foley won a Carlow kick-out and, two passes later, Sean Gannon slammed the ball into the Wee County net.
Louth had gone man-to-man early on and Tally will not make the same mistake tomorrow. He will be well aware that a well organised outfit that defends deep to force turnovers and counterattacks awaits his side.
Patience will be key and if Down are alert to set-piece moves and maintain their discipline in the tackle, they should have the defensive tenacity, pace on the counterattack and firepower up front to get over the line.
Down: R Burns; G Collins, R Wells, R McAleenan; P Laverty, C Flanagan, D O'Hagan; C Mooney, J Flynn; D Guinness, C Poland, R Johnston; J Johnston, D O'Hare, K McKernan