Hurling & Camogie

Down still frustrated by manner of Kerry defeat ahead of Westmeath clash: Ronan Sheehan

Joe McDonagh Cup: Down v Westmeath (Saturday, Ballycran, 3pm)

Down's Daithi Sands has a shot as Meath's James Toher attempts to block during Joe McDonagh Cup match at McKenna Park, Ballycran
Daithi Sands was shown a first red card of his career in last week's Joe McDonagh Cup defeat to Kerry. Picture by Philip Walsh

FOCUS had already turned to this weekend on the long road back from Tralee last Sunday, but frustration still lingers about the manner in which Down’s challenge ran aground against Kerry.

The Kingdom came into the game on the back of a remarkable opening win over Joe McDonagh Cup favourites Westmeath in Mullingar, and made it two from two by pulling away from the Ardsmen in the second half.

Ronan Sheehan’s men are determined to bounce back when they welcome the Lake County to Ballycran on Saturday but, having been right in the game at Austin Stack Park into the second half, the Newry man remains baffled by an “inconsistent” showing from Tipperary referee Conor Doyle.

“We’d be hoping we don’t have to wait until the 50th minute for a scoreable free this week,” he said.

“Look, we didn’t perform in the second half, but it wasn’t helped by the inconsistency in the refereeing. Tim Prenter and Daithi Sands were being mauled the whole game, so it’s very disappointing.

“We all know refereeing is a difficult job - all you expect is that the rules of the game are applied consistently, and they weren’t.

“Daithi has never been sent off in his life but he got two yellows. Before his second yellow, Liam Savage was nearly decapitated with a hurley to the head, and there was no sanction.

“Of course we have to focus on ourselves and our own performance, we know we weren’t at the level we would like, but we did feel the inconsistent application of the rules had a massive bearing on the game.

“That shouldn’t be the case.”

As a result, Down now need to win two of their remaining three games – against this year’s three Joe McDonagh heavyweights in Westmeath, Laois and Offaly – and hope other results go their way in order to claim a final spot.

An opening day victory over Meath was a huge boost in their bid to remain in the competition at the very least, whereas Westmeath come in off the back of defeats to Kerry and Offaly, leaving Joe Fortune’s men up against it with three games left.

“They were the favourites for the competition, having been in Division One the longest – Offaly had only just got up to Division One,” said Sheehan, who hopes forward Danny Toner can play some part having been unavailable since the latter stages of the League.

“We played them in Cusack Park then Thurles, so it’s one each as it stands. They will be justifiable favourites, but we’re unbeaten in Ballycran this year, we fancy ourselves any time anyone comes to McKenna Park, and that certainly will be our approach on Saturday.

“The McDonagh Cup is always a challenge on the basis it’s very hard to stay in. We beat Meath and have probably given ourselves a great chance of staying in the competition for the fifth year in succession.

“When you consider the likes of Offaly and Kildare have been relegated from it in that time, it shows the consistency of what this team has done. Clearly Laois, Offaly and Westmeath are the three favourites for the competition, the rest of us are trying to get a result against them and push ourselves up the ladder a wee bit.

“They have the advantage of playing at a higher standard for the whole of this year, which is likely to stand to them in these games, but anything can happen.”