Down hurling captain Declan McManus still keen despite falling crowds
DWINDLING spectator numbers won't diminish players' interest in the inter-county scene, insists Down hurling captain Declan McManus.
Only a very small crowd witnessed their Christy Ring Cup opener against neighbours Armagh in Ballycran last Saturday, but although he acknowledged the attendance was "disappointing", it still won't deter him.
"It is disappointing but at the end of the day everybody likes to play county hurling, whether there's 100 folk watching or 10, you still like to play for your county.
"You would love to have a couple of thousand watching you, but that's not being realistic."
What is realistic is Down winning the competition, especially now that it is the third tier of the hurling Championships, said the Ballygalget clubman:
"Oh, definitely. Absolutely we know that on our day we can beat anybody in this cup, although it's not going to be easy."
He is happy with how the hurling championships are structured, explaining "especially Christy Ring this year, a lot of the teams are around the same level. Three or four teams could win it – and we think we are one of them."
Next up for Down is a trip to the English capital to take on the team that defeated Derry in round one last weekend, McManus commenting: "London is going to be a tough one but hopefully we can get a win… Everybody will be looking forward to it, especially after a good win."
The 27-year-old, in his first season as skipper, admitted that he was surprised how comfortably Down had defeated Armagh, ending up 28 points clear of a county which has troubled them in recent seasons:
"To be honest, we didn't see that coming. We thought, first round, both teams were going to be really up for it.
"But we know at home we're hard to beat and thankfully we got the ball in early to our inside forwards and they did the damage.
"At half-time it was going to be hard to push on. We sorta 'died' the first 10 [minutes] but then we pushed on again and it was a good win.
"It was a great opportunity for a lot of young lads there. It's a young squad but there's plenty of talent in it and you never know where it can take us."