Off The Record by Oisin McConville

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

ON Saturday Down were relegated to Divsion Three but at one stage it was looking promising for them as Louth were leading against Meath at half-time, at which stage I'm sure a lot of Down supporters were thinking that another great escape was on the cards.

Whilst I do acknowledge that Down were unlucky in some respects, their two home games utlimately cost them dearly, as they missed enough chances in those games to keep them safe and, over seven games and the course of a league campaign, you tend to get what you deserve in football.

Whilst they finished on a positive note, they'll be disappointed to go down to Division Three, because having watched it over the past couple of years, I can attest to the fact that the quality of football isn't wonderful.

However, I don't think that it'll make that much difference to them come Championship time because I think it'll make them redouble their efforts. Eamonn Burns will reflect on the League campaign and realise that Down need finishers, so, for me the likes of Connaire Harrison and Donal O'Hare have to play in the same forward line. They haven't really had that much of a chance to play together, but it's a combination that I think should definitely work.

There's a huge amount of potential there with Down, it's just a matter of whether they're able to tap into that this time around. This time last year Armagh were the favourites to beat them but they managed to turn them over and go on to beat Monaghan, so, this year, they'll not be the surprise package any more.

Armagh managed to win Division Three against Fermanagh in a game where both sides went for it. Sean Quigley getting a black card early on definitely helped Armagh and, for all the progress that they've made, the same old failings came back to haunt Fermanagh- their inability to get the ball over the bar.

Armagh were just that little better, and despite not creating a huge amount of goal chances, they did enough to win the game. Geezer will be very happy that they've gone to Croke Park and have won a game because it'll give them a huge amount of confidence.

Armagh have accomplished their early season goals so they can go into Championship with the wind in their sails. Players will be back to playing club football which I think will help a lot of the fringe players who haven't been getting a lot of football.

Clubs are used to and acceptant of the fact that they don't get a lot of time to work with their county players, but just to have them back about the place will be a huge bonus, as they're a positive influence on the squad and having them about gives everyone a bit of a lift.

For the first time in a long while there's very muted expectations surrounding my own club, Crossmaglen, as their old swagger and aura has definitely waned a little over the past couple of years. Whilst it might not be what every Cross' fan wants to hear, it makes for a competitve Armagh league and championship campaign, as teams like Magehry and Cullyhanna will be fancying their chances a lot more this year after what's come about the past couple of years to Crossmaglen in the Club Championship, so this year's Club Championship will be one of the most eagerly anticipated draws in recent years.



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