Daniel Guinness: Down not taking promotion for granted despite perfect start

Mournemen have 100 per cent record in Division Three but face tough Sligo test next

Down's Daniel Guinness and Offaly's Lee Pearson and Jordan Hayes in action during the GAA Allianz Football  Division Three Round Four game between Down and Offaly  at Páirc Esler, Newry 0n 02-24-2024
Down's Daniel Guinness is denied a shot on goal by the Offaly defence before Liam Kerr pounced for the home side's first goal in the Allianz Football League Division Three match at Páirc Esler on Saturday evening Picture: Philip Walsh

The lower divisions of the Allianz Football League are always ready to hand out harsh lessons to teams who allow their focus to stray.

Down took a fair bit of learning from their inability to secure promotion 12 months ago. They clocked up 10 points, as did Cavan, but it was the Breffnimen who were promoted by virtue of their win over the Mournemen.

Down lost just two game in the League last year. Unfortunately for them, they were to the two games directly above them in the table. Fermanagh and Cavan are holding their own in Division Two this year.

A win over Sligo this Sunday would bring Down a step further towards joining them, but forward Daniel Guinness issued a warning to those believing that another victory, after they recorded their fourth from four on Saturday against Offaly, would be enough to secure promotion.

As well as being chastened by last year’s experience, Down face the three teams directly below them in the table - Westmeath, Clare and Sligo - in their final three games, starting with the visit of Tony McEntee’s men to Newry fresh from their win over Antrim on Sunday.

Guinness was clear when asked if two more points would go a long way towards returning them to Division Two: “Definitely not.

“Sligo, Westmeath and Clare have shown they’re among the top four or five teams in this division and we saw last year it can come down to head-to-head.

“So one slip up is all it can take to cost you promotion and ultimately that place in Sam Maguire. So, no we certainly won’t be easing up come the last few games.

Down at the start of the GAA Allianz Football  Division Three Round Four game between Down and Offaly  at Páirc Esler, Newry 0n 02-24-2024
Down recorded their fourth win from four games in Division Three against Offaly on Saturday evening Picture: Philip Walsh

The Sligo game comes hot on the heels of Saturday evening win over Offaly at Páirc Esler, from which Down emerged victorious following a chaotic second half which saw five goals and many more chances spurned by both teams.

“We’ll just concentrate straight away on recovering. We were on a six-day turnaround there [from the Antrim game], so we have an extra day to freshen ourselves up for Sligo.

“They’re going pretty well and as we’ve seen last year, they’ve a couple of cracking players. So we’ll have to get a bit of work done on them during the week.”

As for that goal-fest with the Faithful, Guinness admits they’ll be disappointed to have allowed the game to become so chaotic in that spell after they had carved out a 10-point lead over the visitors.

“It turned into a bit of a scrappy game, a bit end to end. We sort of lost a bit of control, so we wouldn’t be happy about that. But a win’s a win, that’s all you can do at this stage,” he said.

“The game sort of took on a bit of a life of its own. We sort of lost control of the game. It’s something we’ve tried to pride ourselves on this year, taking a bit more control.”

The Carryduff forward may have feel hard done by that he didn’t get among the goals himself after Down found the net four times. He was hauled back just before he pulled the trigger in the first half, only for Liam Kerr to pounce on the loose ball to rifle it home for Down’s first goal.

In the second half, he did manage to find the net after a bustling run, but had the goal ruled out for over carrying.

“It thought it was harsh enough, I’d have to watch it back on the video. Maybe it could be fair, I don’t know” he said of his disallowed effort.

“Attacking-wise, the second half was pretty good. We cut them open with a good few goal chances. The down side of that was we left ourselves open at the back for a few sloppy goals and sloppy scores. We definitely wouldn’t be happy about that.

“That old saying goals win games. We have to show the intent to look for the goal first, and if it’s not on, you can clip it over the bar.”