Offaly win has set us up for Christy Ring final tilt insists Down's Oisin Mac Manus

The Down players celebrate after last Saturday's dramatic Christy Ring Cup semi-final victory over Offaly in Newry. Picture by Tony Bagnall
Neil Loughran

HAVING been raised on old recordings of his hero DJ Carey going to war with the great Offaly sides of the ’90s, it took a few days for the adrenaline to wear off Oisin Mac Manus after Down downed the Faithful last Saturday.

That dramatic penalty shoot-out victory at Pairc Esler secured their spot in a second successive Christy Ring Cup final, and was the most significant result the county has posted in decades.

“It was the most intense match I’ve ever been a part of - everything was on edge,” said Mac Manus, who bagged seven points from frees.

“Usually boys on the line or in the stands would be calm, but everyone was up for it all week. You were seeing what the bookies were saying, they were offering Leicester City odds, and that drives you on - but we knew we could cause an upset, even if people in the county probably weren’t even expecting us to win.

“We have a lot of belief in each other, we’ve trained hard, played tough games, the likes of last year against Warwickshire in the rain, Kildare in the snow… there’s a really good team spirit there, we could go through anything together and it wouldn’t faze us.”

Ronan Sheehan’s side fell short on their last appearance at Croke Park, falling to an 11-point defeat in the 2019 Christy Ring decider, but Mac Manus insists they are far better equipped heading into Sunday’s showdown with Kildare.

“I think the occasion got to us,” he says.

“Paul [Sheehan], Stevie [Keith] in nets and Danny Toner were the only ones who had played in Croke Park before - we all just wanted to get out there and play, the biggest day of our lives, but now that’s over us and we know what to expect. We know how big it is, we know where everything is.

“The stadium’s not a factor this time so we can focus a bit more. Last year we were happy to get there, this time we want to push on.”

Getting their hands on the trophy would be the perfect end to a perfect, if somewhat disjointed, campaign in which they secured promotion to Division 2A of the National League, reached the Christy Ring final and, crucially, secured their spot among the Joe McDonagh Cup contenders next year.

Meath, pointless after two games, have found out how tough it is at the next level, but Mac Manus knows that is where Down need to be if they are to continue on an upward trajectory.

“It’s a relief to get into the McDonagh.

“That definitely added to the win over Offaly, you’re getting to Croke Park for a Christy Ring final but you do so knowing you’re going to be playing Joe McDonagh next year. That’s a big challenge for us all to focus on.”

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