Moving weekend in Joe McDonagh Cup as Down travel to Carlow needing victory to keep final hopes alive
Joe McDonagh Cup round four: Carlow v Down (today, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm)
DOWN travel to Carlow this afternoon minus injured duo Conor Woods and Jordan Doran needing victory to swap places with their hosts and keep their hopes of making the Joe McDonagh Cup final alive.
After three rounds of fixtures, the Ardsmen sit second-from-bottom in the table on two points. The Division 2A finalists began the campaign with a memorable victory over Kerry in Tralee (which included a Daithi Sands goal after 20 seconds) but since then they have since lost out to table-toppers Antrim (6-22 to 3-16) and Offaly in Ballycran.
“It's a big game,” said Down manager Sheehan.
“We could easily have got something out of the game against Offaly. I wouldn't say we deserved to win it but we had enough chances. This weekend is a big one in the Joe McDonagh because Offaly go to Kerry and if Kerry win that it opens it all up again but we can only focus on ourselves and we need to go and win. If we do, and results go our way, we're in the mix going into the last game.”
Down's final game is at home against bottom of the table Meath. Today's result will determine whether that game is a battle against relegation or for a place in the final.
“If we don't win in Carlow then we go into the last game against Meath needing to win to stay in the competition,” said Sheehan.
“Beating Carlow will allow us to go into that final week with all guns blazing to try and qualify for the final as opposed to trying to stay in the McDonagh Cup.”
There is an edge to this encounter. After the National League meeting between the sides Sheehan highlighted how some of his players had been subjected to sectarian sledging from their Carlow opponents.
“Thankfully, since we highlighted that we haven't had an incident since and that's why we highlighted it,” said Sheehan.
“Before training this week we stood for a minute's silence in memory of Sean Brown who lost his life 25 years ago. The GAA matters to people up here and some Gaels have paid the ultimate price for the love of our games.
“So we don't want to hear that sledging nonsense and our focus in Carlow is only on the hurling. We're hoping for a good hurling match, Carlow are a good team, they've plenty of good hurlers and there'll be nothing in it.”
Carlow are also on two points but their positive scoring difference keeps them just outside the relegation zone. The Barrowsiders began their campaign by beating Meath but since then they have lost to Kerry and Antrim.