Hurling and camogie

Carlow sledging parked as Down hurlers turn focus to Royal rumble

Down's Ryan McCusker on the attack against Carlow in last weekend's NHL Division 2A opener. Picture: Louis McNally
Andy Watters

THE sectarian nonsense the Down hurlers had to put up with from some of their Carlow opponents has been shelved for now as the Ardsmen focus fully on the challenge of taking on Meath in Navan this Sunday.

Ronan Sheehan's men responded to taunts of “Prods”, “Brits” and “black bastards” in the best way possible; by remaining composed and winning the last Sunday's Division 2A opener.

And battling to a one-point victory at Ballycran was excellent preparation for this weekend's trip to Pairc Tailteann.

“We've parked everything (from the Carlow game) at this stage because we have to get the players to focus on what's really important for them and clearly that's the Meath match,” said Sheehan.

“It hasn't been forgotten about, far from it, and to be fair the GAA are looking into it. We're leaving them to get on with that and we trust them to do it but we're very focussed on Sunday and that's where it needs to be.

“I'm not looking for a witch-hunt from what happened in the Carlow game. It's a case of ignorance and it's a lack of respect and from a northern perspective we want this to stop and for people to show a bit of respect. We endured an awful lot in many cases to play our national games here and we just want respect - we want this nonsense to stop.

“I didn't highlight it with the intention of seeing sanctions, I just felt that if I spoke out people would think twice about doing it in future and we might see an end to some of this.”

Down recorded a comfortable victory over Meath when the sides met in the final round of NHL fixtures at Ballycran last year. After four rounds, neither side was in the promotion or relegation shake-ups so there wasn't much at stake as the home team ran out 4-23 to 0-15 winners.

The Joe McDonagh Cup clash that followed also went Down's way (by eight points) but there was a period in the second half when the Royals did look capable of winning that game.

“Sunday is a big test for us,” said Sheehan.

“We've only been in this division a year and Meath are established in the division so they'll see this as a home game and it's a game they'll probably have targeted at the start of the year.

“It's massive for us and it's one we're very much targeting a win in ourselves because if we win this one we've picked up two wins out of two and four points and we're probably leaving ourselves in a good position in terms of safety and one more victory away from a League semi-final.

“Nothing is easy in this division, the teams are incredibly evenly matched and you could see that in the first round results: We won our game by a point, Meath beat Kildare by three points and Westmeath beat Kildare by six points and they're all fairly narrow margins in hurling. The six teams are fairly evenly-matched and there'll be nothing in the game on Sunday, it'll be nip-and-tuck and we're hoping to come out on the right side of it.”

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Hurling and camogie