McGurk Cup a launchpad for National League assault says Down hurling boss Ronan Sheehan
Conor McGurk Cup: Down 3-24 Fermanagh 2-8
DOWN are into the Conor McGurk Cup final following Saturday’s saunter against Fermanagh, and manager Ronan Sheehan sees it as another marker on the road to a successful league campaign.
The Ards men followed up Tuesday night’s hammering of Queen’s with a 19-point win over the Erne county at the Dub in Belfast and Sheehan is pleased he will have another game in which to blood his young guns for the National League campaign.
“Anytime you get to a final is good, particularly for Down hurling. We don’t win things that often, we’re the poor relation,” said Sheehan last night, fresh from taking a training session with his club Newry Shamrocks’ U6 hurlers.
“We’re delighted to be in the final, particularly because it gives us another game. It gives us another opportunity to try things out, to try lads out and build towards that [National League] game with Derry on January 27.”
Among those to impress on Saturday were some who were making only their second appearance at senior inter-county level, as well as a couple of more experienced performers at this level.
“We’re very pleased with young Mark Patterson who’d an excellent game at wing-back, really happy with him,” added Sheehan.
“We’re happy with how Woodsy [Conor Woods] has reintegrated himself back into the team. Paul Sheehan showed a lot of leadership up front for us, along with Eoin Sands, as you would expect.
“We’re just delighted that the three young lads – Tim [Prenter] and the two Ronans [Blair and Costello] – got on the scoresheet again because that’s great for their confidence.”
With the opponents for the McGurk Cup final on Saturday, January 12 yet to be decided, Sheehan is making no bones about the fact his focus is very firmly on the NHL Division 2B opener with Derry.
“We’re fairly clear that we want to get back to the league final,” he said.
“We’ve been in the league final in three of the last four or five years and not won them unfortunately, including last year, so we’ve very much targeting a return to the league final and we’ll take it from there.
“It’s very difficult to turn round and say we definitively want to get promotion or we definitively want to win the Christy Ring. We’ve a very young team, we’ve four or five of our starters in Australia for the next period of time, lads who would’ve been starting last year, so it’s going to take a bit of time for some of these young lads to blend in, but we’re very clear that we see a return to the league final as our priority this year.
“If we get to the league final, we’ll take it from there.”