'We want to try and put Down in a better place': 'Keeper Kane savours magic Mourne moments

Goalkeeper Niall Kane made vital saves in both halves on Sunday as Down saw off Donegal in Ulster. Picture by Philip Walsh
Goalkeeper Niall Kane made vital saves in both halves on Sunday as Down saw off Donegal in Ulster. Picture by Philip Walsh

NIALL Kane has been lucky enough to enjoy his fair share of Monday clubs as Down, Ulster and eventually All-Ireland titles were accumulated through the years with Kilcoo - the age-old tradition even listed as his favourite thing about the GAA in Sunday’s match programme.

But there would be nothing of the sort this time around as Down minds swiftly moved on from the jubilant scenes after victory over Donegal to the challenge that lies ahead against Armagh in Clones this weekend.

The fast-paced nature of the Championship - even one apparently diminished by the provinces’ conscious uncoupling from the All-Ireland series - doesn’t allow for grass to grow beneath the feet, after all.

And what was accomplished in Newry, the Kilcoo goalkeeper insists, will be little more than a footnote if the Mournemen don’t make use of that momentum when the stakes are upped once more in St Tiernach’s Park.

“We knew we had it in us,” smiled the 28-year-old, who was quick to point the finger of suspicion at injured forward Barry O’Hagan for his age appearing as 35 in the programme.

“It’s a privilege to play with these boys. The likes of Danny [Magill] there has been super, he gives everything, and I think that’s what everybody’s doing. We’re taking our chance, giving absolutely everything for the management team and, most importantly, the Down jersey.

“It’s plain to see there’s football in Down, and over the next couple of years we’re only going to get stronger. Today was a quarter-final, we’re into a semi-final, it’ll mean nothing if we go and get beat next week.

“We’ll prepare well for Armagh and just go at it.”

Although both would love to keep alive hopes of lifting the Anglo-Celt for the first time in far too long – 29 years for Down, 15 for Armagh – an added incentive lies with Conor Laverty’s men.

Pull off another upset against another county coming down from Division One and Down, after the disappointment of missing out on promotion from Division Three, would secure their spot in the All-Ireland.

For Kane, though, that is a conversation for another day. Instead, with youngsters, looking programmes and gloves signed, it is important to savour such moments.

Just over a year ago fewer than 100 supporters were dotted across the stand in Pairc Esler when Down welcomed Clare to Newry for the final League game of a miserable Division Two campaign.

Under club-mate Laverty much has been achieved to steer the ship back on course since, with last Sunday a welcome step along the road.

“It [reaching the All-Ireland] hasn’t been chatted about, but what we’re trying to do is get the pride back in the Down jersey.

“Look around you today, look at all the wee boys and girls… I was here last year, it was tough, we were coming to play a game and there was nobody here. So we want to try and put Down in a better place.

“Conor’s Conor - he’s just brought belief back, togetherness. He gave me a bit of a break after the Ulster club final but when he rang me back in December, and the first thing I said to him was ‘I’ll be there on Tuesday night – simple as’. Everybody wants to play for him… look what he’s doing.

“We just need to keep at it and keep it going.”