Mourne men to stick at it until November
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
THE last time Down Senior Hurlers played a competitive game was their replayed Ulster Championship semi-final victory over Derry way back on July 7, the day that the final was originally scheduled for.
The school children had just begun their summer holidays and the heat-wave was in full swing. Down boss Ger Monan hoped for a breather after his men had played seven games in as many weeks but he rightly became increasingly outraged as the weeks turned into months with no word on a date for the final. Eventually it was announced for November 3 - four months after their last game. So, the Halloween break will be over, winter will be upon us and Christmas preparations will be well underway before the 2013 Ulster Champions will be decided, when Down take on Antrim at Celtic Park.
Players Gareth 'Magic' Johnson and Chris Teague have been across the Atlantic to New York and back expecting the result to be long known - but no, all is as it was when they left and Warrenpoint's Teague told the Democrat how disheartening the situation is for his team and Ulster hurling in general.
“From talking to a few of the players the general consensus in the camp is that the game should have been played in July. In July and August there was definitely a weekend there to have that game played. Most of the reason why people are so annoyed is because they were just sort of in the dark as to why it was postponed," he said.
Teague also believes that the fact that the match will be played into the new season is unfair on the players, as he explained: "Now that it's in November it's getting to the stage that the trials for the new season will be starting and the likes of pre-season training will be going on and the club Championships.
“This is the clubs' main time of year and they won't want to release players. Plus it's not fair that these boys are hurling all year round. The likes of Ballycran were playing trials last November and since then hurled the whole year and through the summer, and now they have an Ulster Championship to contest - with no break, at the start of the next season."
Not only that but Down have lost the momentum gained since their historic Christy Ring victory and subsequent Championship success and as such the delay may have diminished their chances against 11-time successive Ulster Champions Antrim. While having their talisman Magic back is of course a big plus, the negatives remain.
“We haven't trained as a group and it's taken the hype and enthusiasm out of the camp after building up a wee bit of form when we beat Armagh convincingly and Derry in the replay well. Confidence in your play definitely makes a difference coming into finals. Down had a successful Championship and Antrim, although in a harder Division, didn't do so well, so they wouldn't have been able to build that momentum.
“The boys felt they could contest the final, but it's more the fact that the Championship has been more-or-less completely discredited. The boys do want to play - at the end of the day this is still a Provincial Championship, but they've just been disappointed with the way it's been treated by the Ulster GAA and maybe the GAA as a whole. "At one stage there was talk it wasn't even going to get played at all this year.
“That shows how much confusion there was and how much the players were in the dark. If we want to get Ulster hurling going and get a decent high regard and respect, these type of things can't happen."
Down play Antrim in the Ulster Championship Final at 2pm on Sunday (November 3) at Celtic Park, Derry.
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