Down minors bring hope for future – John Martin
First up, well done to Down minors. As an Antrim man, I hate to see the Saffrons lose at any grade but on a number of levels it’s great to see Down lift an Ulster title.
The win should boost hurling in Down, especially the lads in the development squads coming after this current crop of minors who can see that the future doesn’t have to entail playing second fiddle to Antrim; it is good for hurling in Ulster; and lastly they will make a better fist of an All-Ireland quarter-final than Antrim, based on the performances of the past two weeks.
Antrim simply had no ideas, no ball winners, and no leaders. When the chips were down – and they were served up fairly early in the game after Down weathered the initial storm, Antrim had no answer.
Down won virtually every 50-50 ball, and apart from two spells in the first half, Antrim’s forwards barely had a look-in. The hooking, blocking, work-rate and stickwork of the Down lads was excellent all over the park. They wanted it more, and had the skill and game-plan to take home the Danny McNaughton Cup.
They face Clare next weekend at Tullamore in the All-Ireland quarter-final. It will be a huge step up but an upset isn’t out of the question. The fact that they’ve had four games in the Ulster championship will stand to them, and means they are already better prepared than most minor sides who go south.
If Caolan Bailie can repeat the accuracy from placed balls shown at Casement on Sunday, Down can certainly stay in touch. Clare scored 1-12 against a superb Tipp side but by the same token kept Tipp, who scored 2-25 against Waterford, to 1-19. So while Down can benefit from the replay against Antrim, they will be facing a Clare side that has played Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Tipp.
Eleven of Down’s 0-18 against Antrim came from frees; in the Munster final there were nine frees scored between the two teams so Down might find that the whistle won’t be sounding quite as often at O’Connor Park, which is something they’ll have to adapt to.
The full story is in the current issue of Gaelic Life, published on Thursday July 19. Buy your copy now in your local newsagent, or you can purchase the online version – for only 90p – by clicking here