The Download

Photo: Irish Examiner

The imminent start of the football action has really caught me unawares. Here we are at Thursday evening already, with the match taking place on Saturday, and I haven’t yet done the usual pre-match piece checking in on the opposition. It’s definitely time to get to it.

So it’s the Mourne County we play in our opening round National League Division Two North encounter this weekend. The match throws in behind closed doors at MacHale Park at 2pm on Saturday but it’s being streamed live on GAA GO – details on how to access it are here. Fergal Kelly from Longford is the ref.

Here’s some top-line stats: we’ve played them 21 times in League and Championship at Senior level. The first time we met was back in 1941 and the most recent was in 2019. We’ve won eleven, lost nine and drawn one of those games, scoring a total of 20-206 and conceding 21-191. As you can see, I just just love the new search function on the results archive – thanks, Mark!

It makes sense to take that 2019 meeting – in Round 2 of the qualifiers up in Newry in June of that year – as our point of departure. We were, once more, endeavouring to set out on a long and winding road to the latter stages of the Championship, Down were seeking to claim a significant scalp and keep their summer alive in the process. There was a heaving, boisterous crowd at The Marshes that evening – God, do you remember those days? – and we had to survive a right battle before we emerged with a five-point win.

That finished the Mourne County’s inter-county season. At the start of 2020 they were in Division Three of the League (two divisions below us), as they’d been the year before as well, narrowly losing out on promotion then on score difference.

They ended up getting promoted from the third tier last year, although it was a campaign that saw them hit a few wobbles. But then again, with Covid-19 now in our midst, everyone was suffering wobbles of one kind or another.

They began in January last year with a Round 1 0-10 apiece draw against Tipperary in Clonmel. A week later, back at Páirc Esler in Newry, they edged out Derry by 0-14 to 0-12 to bag their first win of the year.

Cork were on a mission to escape Division Three last year – one they accomplished with seven straight wins – and in Round 3 Down came away empty-handed from Páirc Uí Chaoimh on a freezing February day. The Rebels ended that match with just 13 players on the field but they still claimed a 0-16 to 1-8 win over their Ulster visitors.

Down got back on track back on home soil against Longford in Round 4. This was another close contest, in which the home side prevailed by 2-13 to 1-14.

In the final round of League games played before the Covid-induced interregnum Paddy Tally’s team bagged another win. This one was on the road, at O’Connor Park in Tullamore, where they proved far too strong for Offaly, winning by 0-17 to 0-9. By now, Down were well placed to go on and seal promotion.

When the action resumed in October, their cause was boosted without having to kick a ball, as Leitrim were forced to concede their Round 6 fixture. Down ended their campaign with a surprising 3-14 to 0-16 loss at Dundalk to neighbours Louth but, although this enabled Derry to catch them on nine points, the head-to-head rule meant it was the Mourne County who took the second promotion spot.

In last winter’s one-slip-and-you’re-gone Championship Down got two days out in Ulster before crashing out. Early in November they were too strong for Fermanagh in their Ulster quarter-final clash at Brewster Park, coming away with a 1-15 to 0-11 win. In the semi-final against Cavan, however, they blew an eight-point half-time lead at the Athletic Grounds to lose by a single point, 1-14 to 1-13, to the side that would then go on to claim a famous Anglo-Celt Cup success.

Since then Down have, of course, been making their headlines off the pitch. Well before the Dubs were snapped training collectively when they shouldn’t have been, the Mourne lads were caught red-handed at the same crack, with Paddy Tally showing disarming honesty afterwards by admitting they “hadn’t a leg to stand on” in relation to the breach. He got a 12-week ban for his troubles, setting a standard for those other managers who subsequently came in his wake.

Will Down’s too-early return to collective training mean that they’re in too-fine fettle for us to stick with them on Saturday? Or will we, seeing as we’re playing a League match in the middle of May, finally record a home win for the first time since Methuselah was a nipper?

Questions, questions. Now it’s over to you, dear reader, to help give a sense of how everyone is feeling about what the answer might be.

How will we do against Down?

  • Win (86%, 431 Votes)
  • Lose (9%, 46 Votes)
  • Draw (5%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 500

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14 thoughts on “The Download

  1. Team to be released tomorrow evening probably? Should be very interesting!

  2. One thing we’ve learned from Dublin is always finish with your best players on the pitch. It’s a policy that’s worked for them.

  3. Picked yes without seeing team or subs. l expect last year’s newbies to get even better. Ryan OD, Oisin, Eoghan and Tommy all finished the year well. Bryan Walsh and Mark Moran made some good cameos. The main area to sort is full back line and would be good to know who our no 2 Goalie is. Oisin has to be played in FB line until we have known solid options. He could be a midfield star in future but is needed back there for now. Missing Aido allows for an orthodox speedy corner forward, maybe a leftie or James Carr extremely good off his so called weaker foot if fit.

  4. That comment about Dublin always finishing with their best players on the pitch at the end is a bit dubious. Cormac Costello is one who made a major difference late on against us but he has hardly been heard of since. On that basis is he, or has he been, one of their best players? One starring day does not do it for me, I’m afraid. There is a lot to be said for winning early because if you do not put everything into the early stages you may well have lost before bringing on your “best” players. Only masochist managers want to be hanging on in the last few minutes. I don’t know that there’s many of them around, certainly not at the top level.

  5. I won’t be at the match on Saturday, but reading the blog and comments after months of reading and the odd comment now and again, you forget things, like the voting for the result what you think will happen on game day, and it comes as pleasent surprise.. It’s great that there is an actual match comment on.. But fair play to Willie Joe for keeping the blog going for months and no game on the horizon, takes determination and persistence.. Now that I’ve been reminded of the voting that I’d completly forgotten, I’ve been further reminded of an incidence that happened when I sat beside the Referees assessor in Mchale Park, year’s ago’s often been said many times unfairly that the Ref was blind, but on this occasion the Refs assessor was fairly blind, he reckoned that he couldn’t see anything with the flood light’s and him needing glasses to write down his notes, several times asking me if the Ref got this decision right or wrong… I forget my individual opinion on the Refs decisions but no doubt they were highly biased, I think every decision against Mayo on the night was wrong in my offered opinion.. Long before the end of the game this Referees assessor had given up on taking notes and it’s no wonder… Don’t have a clue what to expect on Saturday, all I know is that there is going to be show.. And the Mayo boy’s will be there, hopefully their helper’s in the stand will be able to get to go to the show’s in however many months that it takes.

  6. Hi, It is so exciting and especially wlth 7 subs. There are nearly always players injured or resting.Relax etc.

  7. Might be no harm going into this one without AOS, Maybe see how some of the newbies fare in his absence. I would even go further and drop cillian for it too, we know everything we need to know about cillian and i would like to see forward line learning to be less reliant on him for 80 percent of scores.
    Feels weird being in div 2, awful lot of unknowns. I would rate down the best out of our 3 upcoming opponents as i rate tally very highly as a coach having played under him before 🙂

    Will be signing up to the GAAGo service for first time too, will be interesting to see how that goes, will be plenty of games to watch on that

  8. This is the time to try new players for a bit of the game, no supporters, no pressure. You have to give them a fair chance. I saw Tom Cunniffe get a roasting against Kildare and thought he would never make it__how wrong I was.

  9. I’d agree with you on AOS, Supermac, but not so sure on resting Cillian. We really need to get out of Division 2 ASAP, God forbid getting relegated to 3. We need Cillian to settle the ship should we get into choppy waters.

  10. It probably benefits the other forwards playing with Cillian also, he’s our main guy and we need to get the right guys to link up with him.

  11. Interesting team selection.
    Enda Hession the newbie at RFB; Brickenden at LHB
    Kevin mac
    Ryan OD
    Tommy C

  12. Interesting team. I presume Brickenden will go to full back and Hession will be left half back. Plunkett and Durcan will more than likely swap places too.

  13. Strangely, we start our Division 2 campaign having been the last team to win a Division 1 final.
    Good luck to James and everyone tomorrow and thanks WJ for all the build-up.

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