Hurling and camogie

'Frustration' at format but Down hurlers confident of beating Meath

 Antrim were too strong for Down but otherwise Ronan Sheehan's side have performed pretty well in this year's Joe McDonagh Cup.
Shaun Casey

DOWN senior hurling boss Ronan Sheehan has voiced "frustration" that his side could be relegated from the Joe McDonagh Cup if they lose to Meath despite having a far superior scoring difference.

If the Royals win in Ballycran on Saturday afternoon then they will stay up in hurling's second tier championship rather than their hosts purely on the head-to-head record.

Meath have lost all their four matches heavily so far, while Down won away to Kerry in their opener and also pushed Offaly hard, albeit losing badly to Antrim and by nine points to Carlow.

Yet the competition format means that the red and blacks must avoid defeat against Meath this weekend to retain their status in the Joe McDonagh Cup.

The Ulster men’s scoring difference is far superior to their opponents, who lie at the bottom of the table, and Down manager Ronan Sheehan admits there’s some “frustration” that relegation could be decided on head-to-head.

“We need either a draw or a win to make sure we maintain our status which is a bit frustrating given our score difference is probably about 80 points better off than Meath’s [currently 67 points, to be exact].

“There’s a bit of frustration there around it going head-to-head as opposed to how teams have performed through the whole of the league.

“But we knew that beforehand, we knew that the game could quite well come down to this, so we’re prepared for that and we’re confident of getting victory on Saturday.

“We’ve played pretty well through the McDonagh Cup. We probably could have got something out of the Offaly game, a bit frustrated about the first half against Carlow but we played well in the second half and got ourselves back into the game.

“We’re not in bad form and we’re confident that we’ll do enough on Saturday that we’ll keep our status and to move on into next year.”

Defeat to Carlow last weekend piled the pressure onto Saturday’s fixture and it was the first half where Down lost their way.

“We probably played our worst half of hurling in the first half, if we’re being honest. We made a lot of unforced errors which probably gave them seven or eight of their 0-15 in the first half.

“The second half we got ourselves right back into it, actually got back within two points and we had two chances to level and missed both of them which is frustrating.

“We created 26 chances in the second half compared to 14 for Carlow so we were a lot happier in the second half and that gives us a good platform to build on this Saturday.”

Sheehan hopes that home advantage, along with Down’s recent history with the Royals, can see his side through.

“Home advantage is massive. We knew going into the McDonagh Cup that having the two Division One teams [Antrim and Offaly] at home probably worked against our home advantage a wee bit.

“We’d have rather had Kerry and Carlow at home but to have Meath at home is a big positive. We played them last year twice at home and beat them on both occasions.

“We played them earlier on this year in the league and beat them as well so we’re in a good vein of form against Meath.

“That’s not to say that we’ll be complacent, far from it. We’re expecting them to come up and battle for their lives because effectively it’s a relegation play-off.

“But we’re confident in our own ability and although we’ve only got the one win in the last four games, we’ve had some good performances there. So, our form isn’t bad and as a consequence we’re pretty confident going into the weekend.”

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Hurling and camogie