Braniff blow for Portaferry
Down Senior Hurling Championship round-robin: Portaferry v Ballycran (today, Ballygalget, 5pm)
A BACK injury looks set to rule Portaferry veteran Paul Braniff out of this year's Down Championship, much to the dismay of manager Noel Sands.
The Ports enter the round-robin stage this evening against a Ballycran side that has already snuck past Ballygalget, but they will be without the three-time Christy Ring Allstar.
“Paul Braniff is out with a back injury,” Sands confirmed.
“He has been a stalwart for Portaferry for many years and he trained really hard this season and got himself into excellent condition.
“A couple of weeks ago his back spasmed on him and it doesn't look like he is going to make any headway this year.
“Paul has had that happen to him before and we're all bitterly disappointed. It's a huge loss.
“We've a few young players now who are starting to edge themselves onto the team though.
“The rule change that meant you couldn't play minors on a senior team didn't help because these boys could have had two or three years under them by now, but they're getting their chance now.”
Last year was the first season of the new round-robin format in Down and it was widely accepted as being a huge success. All three teams got at least two games and every single one of them went down to the wire.
This year has started in a similar fashion with Ballycran opening their campaign with a 3-11 to 1-16 win over holders Ballygalget.
The three sides may know each other inside out at this stage, but Sands still believes that you can get an edge on your opponent.
“The three teams know each other so well,” said Sands. “They're well educated on each other and this game will be nip and tuck again, you'd expect.
“I think you can get always get a jump on the other team if you come up with something different. You can come up with a tactic to break from the norm.
“At the end of the day though, as Brian Cody says, you can have all the tactics you want but it is sheer hard work and determination that will win the match.”
A victory this evening will secure Ballycran a place in the final.
Former players Gary Savage and Mick Braniff are in charge of the team and while it wasn't their best performance, they would have been delighted to take the two points from their first game with their three goals proving crucial.