GAA Football

Red and black jersey will come first next summer says Down veteran Conor Maginn

Conor Maginn clashes with Armagh's Aidan Nugent in last summer's Ulster Senior Football Championship showdown. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

THE red and black jersey will come first for the players this summer whether Down are involved in the race for the Sam Maguire or not, predicts long-serving forward Conor Maginn.

Of course the Mournemen fully intend to be in the top flight and Bryansford clubman Maginn says Paddy Tally’s panel is focused on clinching promotion from Division Three next year thereby guaranteeing Tier One Championship football for the five-time All-Ireland winners.

With the new two-tier model set to come into effect in 2020, counties in Divisions One and Two and provincial Championship finalists will contest tier one while all other counties will be in the draw for the ‘B’ Championship. Maginn says the jury is still out on the controversial new system.

“The way the new format is, I don’t think we’ll really know what the feeling is towards it until it happens, we’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.

“I’d like to think the Down jersey will come first. There’s a really good set-up there, boys want to play for the county and play for Paddy (Tally, the manager). I think our players will want to see the season out.”

Down would be in Division Two next year if they had scored just one more point across their seven games. After coming so close, Maginn says Tally’s side are determined to go a step further next year but they will face stiff competition.

“We are looking forward to getting stuck into Division Three next year,” he added.

“Our first three games are Tipp, Cork and Derry so all the focus at the minute in pre-season is on a getting a big start in the League, we want to start the season in the right way.

“They are all contenders and good, challenging games, good teams and we will need to be at it right from the start.

“Those first three games are the focus – the first game really is the focus – and we’re counting down towards that. I’m just looking forward to getting the campaign started and kicking on from last year.”

Maginn made his senior debut for Down against Tipperary in the first match of Division Three back in 2009, scoring two points in a 0-18 to 1-9 win at Semple Stadium that sent Ross Carr’s Down on the way to promotion to Division Two.

Down’s 2020 season also starts against Tipp in Thurles and the Mournemen will have the same short and long-term goals next year.

“It doesn’t seem long ago, it has all gone so quick but it’s not over yet,” said Maginn who was a back-to-back Ulster U21 Championship winner with Down in 2008 and 2009.

He played in the All-Ireland U21 final in 2009 and appeared in the senior final the following year when Down lost out by a point against Cork. After that bright start, his only subsequent Championship final appearances were provincial losses to Donegal in 2012 and Tyrone in 2017.

“2010 is still easily the highlight, it was a brilliant year and it came early on so I didn’t appreciate that it wouldn’t quite be like that for the rest of my career,” said Maginn.

“Playing those big games in Croke Park – Kerry, Kildare, then Cork - they were brilliant experiences and unfortunately we haven’t got back to those heights.

“But, look, we just move on to next year and hopefully there’s another bit to go yet.”

Last season the hard-working half-forward was in and out of Tally’s team. He had hernia surgery in pre-season but admits he struggled to nail down a place in the side which missed out on promotion by a single point and ran Mayo close and Armagh closer in the Championship.

“There was a lot of competition for places last year and some boys really came into form at Championship time,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to next year to trying to compete again and get as fit as possible and be there or thereabouts come League and Championship time.”

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