DOWN'S minors face a tricky trip to Clones to open their Ulster MFC bid this weekend, with a Mourne county legend on the sideline.
Benny Coulter has taken up the managerial reins this term, and according to his assistant Sean Cunningham, the Mayobridge man is bringing a huge amount to the table.
“This is Benny’s first year, and he brings a lot to it,” said Cunningham at the championship launch in Dungannon on Monday night.
“All the players would have great respect for him; they’re of the age where they’d have known Benny in his playing career.
“All these guys and their parents would remember that. At U17 you need great buy-in from their parents, and if the parents see someone at the helm of his standing, it’s great.
“He’s taken a few clubs around Down and has club championship medals and is one of the best forwards we’ve had in the last 20 years.”
The county minors don’t have to look too far for inspiration ahead of their Ulster campaign, as the U20 side’s win over All-Ireland champions Tyrone has created a tremendous buzz within the county.
“Without a doubt,” said Cunningham when asked if they can take inspiration from that result.
“The funny thing is, there’s been a lot of talk about the U20s winning, but within our own county, we weren’t overly surprised.
“We know we have good youth coming through. It’ll give our minors a lift but at the same time they have to go out and make their own history. There’s no point in saying the U20s are going well or the seniors had a decent League or whatever.
“These minors have to go out and do their own thing as well but there’s a bit of a buzz coming back into Down football. It’s amazing what a few wins can do and hopefully we can carry that through and get a win on Saturday.
“These guys are ready for it, I believe, they’ve really put in the effort this last two or three months.
“We’ve been really putting in the effort, playing in-house games, doing everything that needs to be done while also being mindful of their schoolwork and school football.
“It’s difficult, but we understand when they’ve games with schools and likewise when we’ve something coming up the clubs have to work with us, and there’s been no crossovers from that.”
Monaghan are first up for Down, and there should be little to separate the two teams as they drew 1-6 to 2-3 in their most recent league fixture on March 18.
However, Cunningham isn’t sure that game will count for much come the weekend.
“We’ve already played Monaghan in the league on a terrible day in Attical. I think it’ll be a very different game,” said Cunningham.
“We’ve watched their results – they ended up with a similar league campaign to ourselves.
“When we played them, we drew so I’d say it’ll be two evenly-poised teams, I don’t see very much between us.”