‘Armagh have been playing at a higher level...’ Down have work to do ahead of Ulster semi says Ceilum Doherty

Versatile Kilcoo clubman prepared to play whatever role helps his county as Down seek revenge against Orchardmen

Antrim V Down at Corrigan Park. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Ceilum Doherty has developed a handy habit of turning defence into attack for Down (Mal McCann)

IT wasn’t pretty to watch at times but Down got their win last weekend and, as Ceilum Doherty acknowledged, they know they have plenty to improve on for their semi-final against neighbours Armagh.

The Clones clash on Saturday-week is a repeat of last year’s last-four meeting. Doherty wore the number 10 jersey that day when – under relentless rain - Armagh looked a class above their rivals.

Andrew Murnin, Ciaran Mackin, Shane McPartlan and Rian O’Neill scored goals as Armagh powered home in the second half to record a 10-point (4-10 to 0-12) victory at sodden St Tiernach’s Park.

If anything, that result flattered Down and the Mournemen will be determined to give a better account of themselves 12 months on. Down fans will hope for a better result in this year’s meeting and supporters of both counties will hope for better weather and traffic management.

This season, Doherty is wearing the number four jersey and he has become a reliable man-marker with the ability to get forward for scores in Conor Laverty’s side.

The Kilcoo All-Ireland Club Championship-winner is happy to play whatever role is required as long as he’s on the field and against Antrim last weekend Doherty was tasked with tracking Antrim’s Marc Jordan.

He shadowed the pacey Lamh Dhearg midfielder all over Pairc Esler, restricting him to just one point from play.

“Marc is a top player and a strong runner and whenever you’re given a task you have to stay diligent and stick with it,” said Doherty.

“Whatever task I’m given I’m happy to do it as long as I’m on the field. I know that’s very cliched but that’s genuinely how I feel about it. I’m ready to do anything for the team and I’m happy as long as I’m on the pitch.”

The Down defence restricted Antrim to just nine points in Saturday’s quarter-final in Newry. That represents a good evening’s work but the Saffrons did miss several good chances in the second half before the Mournemen ran out with a four-point win that extended their League and Championship winning streak at home under Laverty to 11 games.

Down would have found themselves in trouble had Antrim taken their chances and – on the evidence of their ruthless display against Fermanagh at Brewster Park on Sunday – the Orchardmen will not lack for quality in front of the posts at Clones.

After two games without a goal, it’s likely that Down will need to find a way through the Orchard defence to threaten an upset on April 27.

“Armagh have been playing at a higher level than us during the League,” said Doherty.

“We definitely have plenty to improve on but we’re happy to put the Antrim game to bed – we got a win although it probably wasn’t great on the eye but we got over the line.

“We knew Antrim are a very, very strong side. They have a great management and they have a lot of good forwards who can score heavily and hurt you. We were very aware of that and we knew all about their running power.”