Pierce Laverty insists Down have more than one way of playing

The Mourne side’s lack of physicality has been highlighted over the course of the past few seasons

Tailteann Cup launch
Representatives from the 16 counties who will compete for the Tailteann Cup this summer. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile (Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

PIERCE Laverty says Tailteann Cup favourites Down are far from a ‘one-trick pony’ and have the right mix of power and pace in their team.

Conor Laverty’s side, promoted from Division Three in spring, have been installed at short odds to claim the Tailteann Cup and to go one better than last year’s final defeat.

Team captain Laverty feels that their one-point Ulster semi-final defeat to Armagh, a year after losing to the same opposition at the same stage by 10 points, highlights their development.

Critics of the Mourne, however, have claimed for years that they lack height and physical power throughout the team, a point made again by Newry man and former Down underage player Colin Bell on a recent edition of the BBC’s GAA Social podcast.

Asked if he can see Down winning an All-Ireland anytime soon, Bell responded ‘if they could grow big men’, though he acknowledged ‘a presence in the middle of the field now that we haven’t had in a long time’.

Speaking at the launch of the Tailteann Cup at Croke Park, versatile Laverty said he feels Down have the ability to play a number of different ways.

“I actually listened to it (the podcast) on the way down the road earlier this week,” said Laverty.

“I suppose if you look at some of the bigger teams, they do have a big lump in around the middle. I think we have that and I think we have the players in Down to do that. And look, you wouldn’t say Derry are a huge outfit but they’re now one of the teams in the talks for a Sam Maguire win. I feel like any time we’ve played them we’ve gone head to head with them. But no, I would definitely say we have the players in Down.

“We try to be versatile in our attacks and to show that we can kick or run the ball, depending on what’s thrown at us, that we can still pick up scores. I think we’ve took criticism on being a one-trick pony but I think we’re well able to kick the ball, I think we’ve shown that in the last while, and we can run the ball. We definitely have those strings to our bow.”

Laverty praised the current Down set-up under his namesake from Kilcoo.

“I’ve never enjoyed football as much, honestly,” said the Saul man.

“I have friends and family going travelling and I know it might be appealing for someone my age to go away to Australia, take off to Sydney or Melbourne, but I’d rather be here playing football for Down.

“It’s just the whole culture and just being in around the panel, the training and the places you’re taken to in training, the challenges he’s setting you. It’s a very challenging environment but that’s the way I want it to be. I want to be challenged every night I go to training.”

Laverty said it is world away from the low of 2022 when Down failed to win a single game all season.

“I was injured most of that year,” he said. “It was the year before Lav took over. Just the culture change and the whole set-up really, it’s been amazing since Lav took over.”

Laverty accepted that Down remain a work in progress. Their two defeats to Meath last year, allied to their more recent Division Three final loss to Westmeath, and the Armagh losses, point to a group still in development.

“One of the things we looked at was being more consistent with our performances and managing games better,” he said. “I think that comes with just playing those big games too, the bit of experience.”