GAA Football

Clonduff and Saval open Down Senior Football Championship

Old stager Danny Hughes will line out for Saval against Clonduff
Shaun Mahoney

THE Down Senior Club Championship throws in tonight (Thursday) in Newry with only one winner expected between Clonduff and Saval.

Much like Mayo v New York, it’s not the opening fixture that catches the imagination of the overall competition, with tougher duals expected over the weekend.

Clonduff are overwhelming favourites to make it into the next round, while it would be a shock if Saval were not in the backdoor draw.

That’s no disrespect to Saval, manager Darren Quinn has made survival in Division Two of the Down League his main priority and last week’s win over Tullylish was a massive shot in the arm for the men in green.

Former Allstar and Irish News columnist Danny Hughes played the earlier part of the league as sweeper, but Quinn has opted to move him up front and Saval will hoping those twinkle toes will find the goals.

Down’s Pat Havern made his return to club action only last week following his shoulder injury sustained against Mayo earlier this summer.

If Saval are to have any hope then they will need to keep Havern and Hughes in plentiful supply as they attempt to build a new strike partnership.

Not for the first time in recent year’s Saval go into the Championship missing too many players as 16 potential players are injured or abroad.

They’ll be without county man Daniel McCarthy, who is on holidays, big Niall Madine captained Newry York this summer and he remains in the States while Ronan Digney, Cullum Lennon and Eamon Magee are ruled out with injuries for the season.

The 30-somethings have been impressing and Donal Murphy, Danny Hughes and Mickey McCarthy are still playing great footballer and young lads such as John Madine and Ronan McGrath will be expected to make the step-up.

The opposite has happened to the Yellas as Clonduff’s team has improved following the return of steady kicker Stephen McConville and the lively Barry Og O’Hagan from the USA.

Down captain Darren O’Hagan is still one of the best defenders in the county and while he may be given a role to try and contain his county team-mate Havern, O’Hagan will likely play further up the pitch.

Big Arthur McConville is playing well again and Finbarr should be the third McConville brother in the team. Ruairi Lively is a quality footballer, while young Ross Carr is teaming up nicely with his older brother Aidan. Clonduff should fancy their chances to making the latter stages of the competition and they’ll be keen to avoid any upset tonight.

Tomorrow night Mickey Moran’s Kilcoo face An Riocht in St Mary’s Burren, while Carryduff and Castlewellan go head-to-head in Newcastle. And on Saturday the 3.30pm throw-in time at Castlewellan means that the Longstone v Jody Gormley’s Loughinisland will clash with the All-Ireland semi-final, while later that evening (at 8pm) in Kilcoo, it will be Bredagh against Byransford.

On Sunday the big-hitters defending champions Burren take on Ciaran McKeever’s Mayobridge in Newry at 8pm, which and will be preceded with Warrenpoint playing Ballyholland Harps at 6.30pm. And Monday night wraps up the first round with Pete McGrath’s Rostrevor playing RGU Downpatrick in Clonduff at 7.30pm.

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