No quarter given as Warrenpoint and Clonduff clash in Down Senior Championship
Down Senior Football Championship round of 16: Clonduff v Cumann Pheadair Naofa, Warrenpoint (tomorrow, Pairc Esler, 7.15pm)
DIVISION One champions Warrenpoint have concerns over the fitness and/or availability of half-a-dozen certain-starters ahead of tomorrow evening’s heavyweight battle with Clonduff at Pairc Esler.
A place in the quarter-finals is the prize for the winners when the ’Point and ‘the Yellas’ do battle and Warrenpoint’s prospects will be brighter if they can get Ross McGarry, John Boyle, Ryan McAleenan, Cormac McCartan (injury issues), Ciaran McCartan (living in Cork), Niall McCartan (a doctor based in Derry) all on the field.
“We haven’t been able to put out our strongest team,” said manager Shane Mulholland who, like assistant-manager Mark Poland, is in his first year at the club that lost the 2019 final against Kilcoo by a point.
“We have six or seven fellas who would be in your strongest 15 but we haven’t been able to put them all on the field at the same time.
“Ruairi McGivern and Peter McSweeney have come out of the reserves and done very well and young Sean O’Hare, who was with the Down U20s, has stepped up but we don’t really have any form and we’re not playing the way we want to play.
“It’s a bit stop-start and that makes me unsure about how it will go. If we turn up and we play like we can, then we’ll be right in the game but if we play like we’ve played in the last two matches, Clonduff will beat us.”
Warrenpoint lost just once on their way to the Division One title but were beaten by Division Two outfit Longstone in their championship opener before bouncing back impressively to see off RGU Downpatrick 0-12 to 0-3 last weekend.
“The Longstone game was a bit of a disaster,” says former Down star Mulholland.
“They didn’t score in the second half but we still couldn’t get over the line. That put us in the backdoor where you’re up against it and Bryansford was a tricky one.”
Bryansford didn’t score in the second half either and – no matter what level you’re playing – keeping the opposition scoreless for 30 minutes means the team is working well defensively. However, Clonduff, with the O’Hagan brothers (Darren and Barry), the Carr brothers (Aidan, Charlie and Ross) and a host of other quality performers, will ask tougher questions.
“They are probably in the top three in the county and they have loads of talent in their team,” says Mulholland.
“There is a lot of talent in the Warrenpoint changingroom too but when you look at Clonduff, their forward line is probably the best in the county on natural ability. I’ve been very impressed with Paddy Branagan at wing half-back and Eamon Brown looks a threat up front.
“We’re definitely up against it but it’s one of those games – it’s a proper championship game, old school knockout and whoever wins will deserve to win.”
Warrenpoint had their noses in front at the final whistle when these clubs met in a nail-biting quarter-final last year. The seasiders won 4-2 in a penalty shootout and this year’s league game finished in a draw so there isn’t much to choose between the teams.
“It should be a cracking game,” said Mulholland.
“Nothing beats a knockout for a proper championship, it should be a good game and hopefully we come out on the right side of it.”