All or nothing for Down

All or nothing for Down

9 June 2021

DOWN senior footballers know they are in a make or break scenario as they risk relegation back to Division 3 if they fail to overcome Laois in their National League play-off this Saturday.

After an unsuccessful opening game against Mayo in Castlebar, Paddy Tally’s men had their hopes of promotion to the biggest stage firmly dashed by a confident Meath side the following week.

However, the Mourne men showed their grit and determination when they managed to see off a plucky Westmeath side in what was a game of contrasting halves in Mullingar.

Following a dominant first half display, Down looked comfortable upon the restart until a double blow of conceding both a goal and receiving a black card in a matter of minutes shifted the dynamic of the match.

Tally’s side did manage to hold on for the win, largely in thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Rory Burns who saved a penalty and made a number of crucial stops to avoid a repeat of their Ulster SFC clash with Cavan last year.

Down will be hoping to take the positives from the contest and carry on in their winning momentum, regardless of their nervous second half display.

The result also means that the Mourne county avoid playing Cork in the play-off, as Westmeath now fill that void.

The red and black outfit have not had the easiest of roads throughout their campaign so far and will most definitely be rejuvenated by the news that they are one of two Ulster counties allowed spectators at their next game – the other is Armagh.

Down will finally welcome supporters back to Páirc Esler when they face-off against Laois in Newry this weekend, with the throw-in scheduled for 6.15pm.

As if the Mourne county needed anymore motivation for the clash, this will also be their first home game of the season due to forfeiting home advantage against Meath, when they transferred venue to Armagh’s Athletic Grounds.

This punishment was a result of breaching the GAA’s Covid-19 regulations back in January.

Despite the defeats in their opening games, Down will consider it a successful season if they manage to retain their status in Division 3.

They be able to regroup and possibly strengthen their side ahead of their Ulster SFC preliminary round clash against Donegal at the end of this month.

Meanwhile Mike Quirke and his Laois side won’t be feeling overly confident ahead of their clash with Down following their recent heavy defeat against Kildare.

The 13 point loss is the latest failure for the O’Moore county, following their collapse against Cork and the opening day loss to Clare.

Down will also be keeping tabs on the loss of Colm Begley and Donie Kingston who missed out on the Kildare fixture due to injury.

The last league game between the two sides was on January 26, 2019 in Páirc Esler with Laois winning by 2-15 to 1-12. 

Six Down players made their league debut on that occasion with the Mourne men starting off well, but Laois came back strong to win by six points.

Tally’s men may be tipped as slight favourites this time round, but it all depends on what team shows up on the day.