BY RONAN SCOTT
Ronan Sheehan says that Down hurlers will come back bigger and stronger next season, literally.
The Ardsmen lost last weekend’s Christy Ring final to Meath, 4-19 to 2-15.
It was a frustrating result for the county, particularly as they had the chances to be much closer.
But manager Sheehan, who says he’s keen to return as boss, said that Down will improve next year.
And in particular, he wants his team to get physically stronger.
“We made progress this year (with strength and conditioning) but you could see in the final that we were trying to play the ball up through the lines. But Meath were going route one because they had the physical advantage.
“We need to get our speed of hurling up as well. We need to work on getting our ball to hand from 30 yards. We need to make the ball work.”
Sheehan said that young hurlers like Phelim Savage, Tim Prenter, Ronan Blair and Ruairi McCrickard made great progress this year.
He also hopes that Pearse Og McCrickard will return from injury, while Ronan Costello should return from travelling.
“They are in their low 20s. There is an awful lot to come from those players.”
Down were underdogs to win last weekend’s Christy Ring final.
Meath had played McDonagh cup hurling in 2018, and managed to maintain their division 2A status this season.
Yet Down were still confident of getting a result. They put it up to Meath. Despite having went behind by 1-8 to 0-1 after 22 minutes. A come back was built by
Paul Sheehan, Eoghan Sands and Daithi Sands among others. They only trailed by one, 1-12 to 2-8 at half time.
In the second half, Down kept the momentum, but were stunned by two goals from Meath who dominated the final stage.
“We were disappointed with the result, not the performance. We have to learn to take our chances, and cut down on the mistakes.
“It took us 20 minutes to score. We had seven bad wides from scoreable positions. If we had taken half of them we would have been in a strong position. Three scores from Meath came from mistakes from us. It was disappointing, but there are positives to take from it. They battled their way back into the game. The game was in the melting pot right up until the sending off.”
So what are they going to do to improve themselves for next season?
Sheehan turns his attention to the Down u-20 hurlers who are playing next week.
“We want to go as far as possible (in that competition).Eight of our senior panel are on the u-20 squad. It’s about watching players and seeing who will play well.”
And if Sheehan returns as manager next year, which he’s more thank likely to, he will spend the next five months watching club hurling.
“This team is in no way a closed shop. But it will be a hard panel to get on to.”
And there is a clear prority next year.
“We have to get out of division 2b. We would be hopeful of doing that.” Sheehan added.