Hurling and camogie

Down hurlers aiming to set up promotion push with victory over Meath in Trim

Daithi Sands scored one of Down's four goals in last season's NHL victory over Meath. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

Allianz National Hurling League Division 2A: Meath v Down (tomorrow, Trim, 2pm)

By Andy Watters

CARLOW came up with some distasteful sledging and a late goal in Ballycran but it wasn’t enough to stop Down from opening their Division 2A account with an encouraging one-point win on home soil last weekend.

Ronan Sheehan’s side intend to build on that when they hit the road for Trim tomorrow to face familiar opponents Meath for a game which will set the winners up for a push for promotion this year.

The Royals travelled to Newbridge last Sunday and beat understrength Kildare by three points in their opener thanks to a dozen points off Jack Regan’s stick and Down manager Sheehan says Meath will have targeted two points from tomorrow’s clash.

However, last weekend’s result spoke volumes for his side’s mental strength and killer instinct when the chips were down.

Carlow’s John Michael Nolan scored a 70th-minute goal to give his side a three-point lead but Down responded brilliantly in injury-time with a point and then the match-winning goal from Marc Fisher which sealed a 2-10 to 1-12 win.

“The nature of the victory was very pleasing because we probably didn’t play as well as we would have liked, particularly in the first half,” said Sheehan.

“We had been scoring very freely in the pre-season but we only had 1-5 on the board at half-time. Conditions were difficult on Sunday but when you’ve had a strong breeze and you’re only a point up and they’re playing with the wind in the second half you know you’re up against it.”

Down and Meath duelled twice last year and the Ulstermen won both games. The first encounter was in the final round of League fixtures when, with neither relegation nor promotion a possibility for either county, the Ardsmen won a ‘phoney war’ comfortably.

The subsequent Joe McDonagh Cup meeting three weeks’ later was much more competitive.

Despite playing into the wind in the first half, Down leg by five points at the interval but the Royals fought back to level in the third quarter before Sheehan’s side kicked for home and they ran out eight-point winners.

However, the recent memory of the Christy Ring Cup final loss in 2019 should keep Down minds focussed on the bus to Trim.

“There’s not a lot between the teams,” cautioned Sheehan.

“The games are always tight. People might look at us winning the two games last year and make us favourites but I wouldn’t see it like that necessarily. If we go down there and perform then we’re in with a very good chance of getting a victory but it’ll be a hard-fought victory if we come out on the right side.”

Sheehan has his fingers crossed that Pearse Og McCrickard will be fit to play some part after he picked up a knock against Carlow. Jordan Doran didn’t feature in that game but Down hope that he will be fit to at least take a place on the bench and forward Daithi Sands, who was introduced at half-time against Carlow, could start tomorrow.

“We have a relatively clean bill of health,” said Sheehan.

“We have an odd knock and niggle but bar our long-term injury, Ruairi McCrickard, we don’t expect anyone to miss out on Sunday.”

With a full-strength squad to choose from (apart from McCrickard who requires surgery on a shoulder injury) and a morale-boosting victory that should have bolstered team spirit behind them, Down should have the tools to get the win they need at St Loman’s Park.

 

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Hurling and camogie