Cumann Pheadair Naofa raise curtain on Down SFC against Longstone
Down Senior Football Championship: Cumann Pheadair Naofa v Longstone (tonight, Ballymartin, 7.30pm)
SENIOR league champions Warrenpoint raise the curtain on the Down Senior Football Championship tonight when they take on Longstone at Ballymartin.
Cumann Pheadair Naofa confirmed their All County League Division One title victory at the beginning of this month when they beat Bryansford in Warrenpoint. Now, they will turn their attention to mounting a successful challenge for the Down SFC title.
Shane Mulholland’s men reached the semi-finals of last year’s tournament, where they lost to eventual champions Kilcoo, and he is determined there will be no regrets this time around.
“There is such a desire for this group to win something, because if this group goes through without winning a championship they will look back and think it was an underachievement,” said Mulholland after the league victory was confirmed.
And he hopes a winning mentality has now been instilled which will stand them in good stead over the course of the championship campaign: “I thought, they were very close over the last two or three years and could we just get them over the line?” Mulholland added.
“We couldn’t be happier, Polie [Mark Poland] said at the start of the year to this bunch of lads, ‘there are only two trophies you can win in any club season, one is the championship and one is the league, so why not go and try and win two trophies?’ So, they won one and that is a good start the season.”
Mulholland has a strong squad at his disposal for tonight’s opener against Longstone, one which will have been hardened by that successful league campaign. The experience of seasoned campaigners like John Boyle, Ross McGarry, Donagh McAleenan and Jamie Grant is complemented with the fresh talent of the likes of Seán O’Hare, who was in scintillating form in that final league game against Bryansford.
Another young prospect Cian McLoughlin is on the road to recovery while county star Ryan McAleenan has been in a race against time to be fit for tonight’s game.
“We know how strong he is,” said Mulholland of McLoughlin.
“He is injured and on the verge of breaking through. Ryan McAleenan is the big miss, he was a county player last year and has missed much of the season through injury. He has been back in training, so he might not start but he is going to put a bit of competition into the squad again.”
Longstone finished third in Division Two of the All County League and will be aiming to improve on last year’s round three championship exit at the hands of Carryduff.