Downings going into the unknown in Celtic Park

ULSTER JUNIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER-FINAL

Downings going into the unknown in Celtic Park

Andy Connor will take his Downings team to Celtic Park on Sunday to take on Derry champions, Magilligan in the Ulster Junior Club Championship quarter-final (12.45 p.m.)

After lifting the Donegal title three weeks ago, Downings have been quietly preparing for an assault on Ulster.

So far it has been a great year for the Rosguill men, winning the All-Ireland Junior Gaeltacht title in June and then lifting the Donegal Junior Championship when they came from behind to defeat Naomh Padraig, Muff, in the Donegal final in O'Donnell Park, Letterkenny.

Andy Connor and his backroom team were able to take in the Derry final in Celtic Park a week later as St. Aidan's, Magilligan had a point to spare over favourites Drum on an 0-12 to 0-11 scoreline.

Looking forward to Sunday's game, Connor says: "We're as ready as we're going to be. Gary Ban (McClafferty) is not 100% but we have all the rest okay," he says.

"Gary will not start but we would be hoping to get something out of him, maybe like the last day in the final."

McClafferty, the Downings' talisman for a good number of years, twisted his knee on the Thursday night before they met Letterkenny Gaels in the championship, and he has been only playing bit parts ever since.

"He is a big loss. He would be our main man," said Connor. Downings drew with Downings in the league last weekend and McClafferty was again held in reserve.

"When he is not there someone else has to step up. When we bring him on it gives everyone a lift," sais Connor.

Asked if he had much information on Sunday's opponents, Connor said he had been at the Derry final and had seen a few clips of them on vide.

"They are a good enough side and are a big, physical side. They would be the opposite to us as most of them would be in their late 20s and early 30s, while most of our team would be U-21."

The Downings manager agreed that he would be looking towards the likes of Lorcan Connor to step up to the plate. "In fairness he has been doing that. Our subs from the bench did very well the last day and some of them will start on Sunday," said Connor.

It will be the second time that Downings have played in Ulster. "We played in Clones in 2012 against the Monaghan champions and got beat by a couple of points.

"Playing in Ulster is a different kettle of fish. Referees let a lot more go. It would be the polar opposite to what happens in Donegal," said Connor, who hopes that the experience of playing outside Donegal in the All-Ireland Gaeltacht will be a help to his side.

"The fact we went to Cork and won the All-Ireland Gaeltacht playing against sides from Mayo, Cork, Kerry and Galway should be a help to the boys in fairness. They faced four different styles," said Connor.

They will have to use all that experience on Sunday and if they can repeat their never-say-die approach they can advance to the semi-final.