Downings have set their sights on an Ulster final

Downings have set their sights on an Ulster final
Tom Comack sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

The bar keeps rising for Donegal junior champions, Downings, who face Blackhill from Monaghan, in the Ulster Junior Championship semi-final on Sunday, in Owenbeg. (Throw-in 2.30 pm)

The men from Rosguill have already bagged Donegal and All-Ireland Comortás Peil Na Gaeltachta titles and a Donegal Junior Championship crown.

They have won an Ulster quarter final, where they defeated Magilligan from Derry - a first for the club.

And now on Sunday, they face their next test against the Monaghan champions with a place in a first ever Ulster final on the horizon.

“We set our target at the start of the year to win the All-Ireland Gaeltacht and when we won that we targeted the Donegal Junior Championship,” said Downings manager, Andy Connor.

“And when we won the Donegal Championship we set winning the first round in Ulster, something we had not done before.”

In their one and only other time Downings played in the Ulster championship they bit the dust first day out. That was in 2012 and they lost away to Drumhowan, the Monaghan champions, in Clones.

“Now that we have got over the first round we have set ourselves the target of being the first Downings team to qualify for an Ulster final.”

Blackhill will provide Connor and his charges with a formidable challenge. The club, which is on the outskirts of Castleblayney, won the Monaghan final at the fourth attempt in-a-row after losing the previous three finals which included a couple of replays.

And after their eight point victory over Sean McDermotts (1-16 to 0-11) in the Monaghan final, they recorded a ten point, 0-19 to 0-9, quarter-final win over Armagh champions, Clonmore Robert Emmett’s. That game was in Clones.

The winners of Sunday’s tie will face either Rock from Tyrone or Newtownbutler, the Fermanagh champions, who also meet on Sunday in the other semi-final.

“From what I have been told about them they are strong all over the field and are an experienced outfit and they have a couple of dangerous inside forwards.”

Dónal and Ryan Courtney at full and centre half-back; Anthony Courtney and Dermot Daly, in the middle of the field; Philip Donnelly, at centre half-forward and Darren Woods and Mickey Geehan in the full-forward line are the key men for the Monaghan champions.

“They are a strong side. But we are a good side, too, and we have the experience of playing away from home from our experience over the last couple of years in the Comortás Peil na Gaeltachta.

“I feel that will stand to us. Sunday’s game is a first away game for them.

“We know we will have to improve on our last game and in fact we have not played well in our last few games and still we managed to get the results and get to the provincial semi-final.

“Our last good performance was in the county quarter-final against Moville in O’Donnell Park. That was our best performance of the championship so far and we are hoping to get up to that level again on Sunday.”

Connor and Downings have received a massive boost this week with the return to training of Gary ‘Ban’ McClafferty, the team’s best forward.

“It is a big boost to have Gary Bán fully fit again. He hasn’t played a full game since the quarter-final win over Moville.”

The free scoring McClafferty missed the county semi- final win over Letterkenny Gaels and only played for the last couple of minutes in the county final win over Naomh Padraig, Muff.

He kicked the winner in thee final seconds after being introduced and he played the most of the second half in the win over Magilligan, but did not get on the scoresheet. All in all Connor has reported a clean bill of health for Sunday’s big encounter.