Tough opener for Down in TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship
TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group B round 1: Down v Clare (Sunday, Páirc Esler, 3.30pm)
DOWN begin their All-Ireland Intermediate Championship campaign with a tough opener against Clare at Páirc Esler on Sunday.
With Louth their other opponents in this three-team group, the top two qualify for the quarter-finals. In all there are four groups in this 13 team competition. Tyrone, the other Ulster representatives in the intermediate championship, begin their account next Sunday against Sligo.
Down could set the early pace in the group with victory over Clare, but the Banner are a seasoned intermediate championship side with a decent track record in the competition having reached the knock-out stages every year since 2015 including the final in 2016.
As the only intermediate side in Munster, they played in the Connacht championship – albeit unable to compete in the decider, but it gave them invaluable championship game time preparation against Leitirm, Sligo and Roscommon.
With three wins from three, they are finding some good form at the right time after a tough league campaign that ended in a relegation play-off defeat to Tyrone as they departed Division Two for life in Division Three next season.
Mourne manager Ronan McCartan is only too aware of the challenge Clare present but he also hopes that Down show signs of progression in the competition.
This is their first action since their Ulster final loss to Tyrone, 2-15 to 1-10, a few weeks ago. It was a below-par first half that proved costly as they trailed 1-9 to 1-1 at the break, however, they were much improved in the second half that ended all square between them but ultimately the damage had been done in the first 30 minutes.
“The girls were disappointed after the Ulster final, but we were very aware going into the game that Tyrone were playing at a higher level and I don’t think that can be underestimated,” said McCartan.
“With Clare having played in Division Two we are expecting a very hard, physical game. Just from watching the games in the league and watching their games from the championship, we know what to expect from them and where their main threats are.”
McCartan has injuries to a few players to contend with while Laoise Duffy and Ciara Byrne are gone for the summer. However, he has the likes of captain Meghan Doherty, Natasha Ferris, Jessica Foy and Viv McCormick to help led his charges.
“We are under no illusions that Clare is going to be a difficult game but ultimately we would love to try and progress as much as we could in the competition because it is the only way we are going to be able to improve as a county and that will be our sole focus, is to try and get ourselves to replicate some of the good moments we had against Tyrone and see if we can get more consistency into a full performance as well.”
Sunday (2pm unless stated):
All-Ireland Intermediate Championship
Group A: Wexford v Offaly, Leitrim v Wicklow
Group B: Down v Clare (Páirc Esler, Newry, 3.30pm)
Group C: Kildare v Longford
Group D: Sligo v Laois