DOWN’S relegation play-off against Laois carries greater importance from a development point of view than their Ulster Championship showdown with Donegal later this month, according to Benny Coulter.
The 2010 Allstar was part of Paddy Tally’s backroom team as the Mournemen attempted to escape the clutches of Division Three in 2019 – a campaign that ended in final day disappointment before they finally got over the line last year,
However, defeats to Mayo and Meath before a final day victory over Westmeath have left them facing an all-or-nothing shootout against the O’Moore men on Saturday night to avoid slipping back through the Division Two trapdoor.
And Coulter believes it is vital that Down remain in the second tier.
“For the development of the lads and to stay at that higher level, it’s very important,” he said.
“No disrespect to Division Three but the standard obviously isn’t as high. You see Derry walking through that division this year. Down need to be in Division Two, for the likes of Daniel and James Guinness who have been about the panel three or four years, that’s where they need to be.
“You want to be playing those bigger teams, it’s the only way they’re going to improve. It was tough on them this year being drawn against the two teams who were relegated from Division One, that’s a major step up on where they came from.”
One man who has impressed during Down’s campaign thus far is Coulter’s fellow Mayobridge man, Cory Quinn.
Previously used as an impact sub, Quinn has started all three League games so far, bagging 15 points, and becoming a focal point of the Down attack in the absence of Jerome Johnston and Donal O’Hare.
Yet Coulter feels he needs to get more support on the scoreboard if Down are to make any headway this summer.
“If Cory’s not a marked man against Laois, he’ll definitely be a marked man against Donegal. The super-sub thing frustrated him there but, with Donal and Jerome stepping out this year, he’s really stepped up to the plate.
“Cory’s probably one of the most intelligent footballers I’ve played with – when he gets the ball he’s sharp, knows when to turn, when not to turn, can operate in tight areas.
“He can find space; he’s a class act and I’m sure Laois will pencil him in for special attention on Saturday. But he’s also been doing a lot of Down scoring so the likes of Barry O’Hagan need to step up and get a lot more scores.”