John Martin – Down have a chance against Clare
In 2011, it was 38 points, in 2010 it was eight. 2009 saw 25 points between them and in 2008 it was 24.
I could go further back through the years but, save for a blip here and there, it doesn’t get much better from an Ulster point of view. The losing margins for the Ulster minor champions in the All-Ireland series are usually in double figures and the games are usually over by half time.
There are exceptions of course, the freshest in the memory being the Antrim sides of 2005 and 2006 that lost out by narrow margins to Limerick and Galway, or indeed two years ago at Crossmaglen when Dublin squeaked past Antrim after Matthew Donnelly had been red-carded early on, for what only the ref could explain.
For a victory outside Ulster however, you have to go back to 1940 when Antrim beat Laois (or Leix as it was then) by 5-3 to 4-5. There’s even an asterisk against that win as Dublin had beaten Laois in the Leinster final but had fielded an overage player and so were disqualified.
So on historical evidence, Down needn’t bother going to Mullingar on Saturday to face Clare.
There are grounds for optimism however, at least that the margin can be kept to respectable levels.
Clare have already been beaten twice this year in championship, and if Limerick’s free-taker had been on song in the Munster semi-final, they’d have lost three, and Tipp aside, this isn’t considered to be a great year for minor hurling in Munster.
In Clare, it is expected that this group of players will challenge for honours next year, with all but six underage for 2013. They do however have a dangerous set of forwards, Shane O’Donnell, Jamie Shanahan, Niall Deasy and Bobby Duggan all contribute one or points a game each and if Duggan finds his form from the dead ball, Down will need to keep their discipline.
He clearly wasn’t on form in the Munster final against Tipp, which contributed to the relatively low return of 1-12, but the area where Down can really aim to dominate is midfield.
This Down team simply cleaned Antrim out in the middle of the park in the replayed Ulster final and Clare haven’t particularly impressed there in their games so far.
The full story is in the current issue of Gaelic Life, published on Thursday July 26. Buy your copy now in your local newsagent, or you can purchase the online version – for only 90p – by clicking here