Trip to Croker for Down aces

Trip to Croker for Down aces

27 March 2024

DOWN senior footballers are hoping to make it an Easter to remember as they prepare for battle against Westmeath in the National Football League Division 3 final this Saturday at Croke Park.

The action is set to begin at 7.15pm and will be televised live on TG4 for those unable to make the trip to Dublin.

Conor Laverty’s Mournemen clinched promotion to Division 2 with an 11-point victory over third placed Clare at Páirc Esler on Sunday.

This now means Down has moved into the top portion of the league structure, and so, Sam Maguire action is within sight once again.

The Mourne County’s latest win has further highlighted the sparkling improvement over recent years and with Croker awaiting, skipper Pierce Laverty is confident his team, having already played at the venue twice last year including a Tailteann Cup final against Meath, have the experience required to get the result.

“I suppose from them two games last year, we will have learnt a lot from them,” said Down captain Laverty. 

“Especially that Meath game and it’s [Croke Park] no longer a new setting for us.

“This team is a very young team and we have learnt a lot in the last 12 months so hopefully we can push on and get another win.”

Down have enjoyed a flawless campaign thus far, winning six out of seven games with their only draw coming against Westmeath in Mullingar a fortnight ago.

That occasion proved to be a titanic tussle with Laverty admitting after the Clare victory that Down were slightly off the pace, leading to the must-win occasion at Newry on Sunday.

“The pressure was probably building this last couple of weeks, we knew it would come down to the last two or three games,” he said.

“Some tough teams, some tough fixtures, we got out of Westmeath with a draw last week and that put us in a good position today to go home with the win.

“I suppose the message this week was just to relax and go and enjoy it. We had built it up too much in our heads last week and that let us down with some of the final passes and our form wasn’t probably up to scratch but I thought we rectified that this week and them final wee passes were in tune today,” he continued.

“We tried to keep the scoreboard ticking and kept pushing on. We had a wee bit of a breeze there and put a bit of a squeeze on them so some of the boys backed themselves, and that was the message to get across, just back yourself, we are good enough to take them shots and thankfully they went over the bar.”

Meanwhile, Westmeath lost out to Sligo which dealt them just their second defeat of their league campaign at the weekend.

This swings the momentum Down’s way but they will still have to remain on high alert with Westmeath possessing the likes of Luke Loughlin, who impressed during his side’s loss, in their arsenal.