Down's championship    begins on Thursday

Steve Malone


Steve Malone


Thursday 25 August 2022 17:00


Thursday (August 25) at 7pm

At Liatroim: Glenn v Bredagh

BREDAGH go into this game as favourites having secured promotion to Division One, while Glenn struggled to stay in Division Two of the Down All County Leagues, writes Steve Malone.

However, Glenn’s win over Annaclone last week secured their divisional status and that lift might be timely. Dual star Donal Hughes will likely lead Bredagh’s attack along with Joe Shields and Conor Francis, while Connor Hannigan and Brendan Gallan are decent along the backline.

Glenn have talent with Denis Murtagh, Joe Sands, Niall McParland, Jack Murtagh and Kevin Rice steering the ship. John O’Hare is a top goalkeeper, while if Tiernan O’Brien, Dylan Bagnall and the lively Jarlath McConaghy are in form, they’ll gave the Cherryvale side a run for their money.

Player to watch: Patrick Brooks (Glenn).

At Darragh Cross: Loughinisland v Castlewellan

Castlewellan go into their clash with Loughinisland looking only their second win of the season. They haven’t been going well and this championship might be a short one for the Town. Loughinisland have had a decent season, having won nine league games and finished joint second in Division One B. They will expect to be in the quarter-finals.

Player to watch: Conor Megoran.

Friday (August 26) at 7.30pm

At Pairc Esler Newry: Kilcoo v Clonduff

KILCOO begin their defence of their All-Ireland, Ulster and Down titles against rivals and neighbours Clonduff. There is no love lost between the sides and this should be a tasty affair in Newry.

It is an interesting role for Down manager Conor Laverty, considering he will be playing with and against players he wants to join his county panel. For those 70 minutes, Laverty will be rightly focused on helping Kilcoo into the next round. Ronan Sheehan manages Down hurlers and plays for Newry Shamrocks and as much as is potentially a recipe for disaster, it has only been positive for Sheehan, Shamrocks and Down, same can happen with Laverty.

Kilcoo lost the league final to Burren last week, the fight didn't do anything for the Magpies but they'll be keen to hit the ground running. Ryan Johnston, Ceilum Doherty and Dylan Ward are back from the States, Jerome Johnston and younger brother Shealan will likely lead the attack.

McDarragh Hynes and the Brannigan brothers will make up the defence and it will be interesting if Ryan McEvoy lines out in the middle with Anthony Morgan or at full-back. Justin Clarke's injury is a blow. Miceal Rooney may be back but brother Chrissy could play some part.

Clonduff are without talisman Stephen McConville, he got a plate put on his face after the top four clash against Kilcoo a few weeks back. Barry O'Hagan should be back from the States and they need him a full tilt. Eamonn Brown has been motoring nicely. Darren O'Hagan will carry the threat too but there’s more to come from Tom Close. Clonduff are underdogs but they won’t lie down.

Player to watch: Anthony Morgan (Kilcoo).

Saturday (August 27) at 5pm

At St Patrick’s Park Newcastle: Downpatrick v An Riocht

Downpatrick have had a mixed season thus far but they’ll hope to have enough to see off last year’s dramatic Intermediate champions An Riocht. The Kingdom dropped out of their division but that’s been a victim of the relegation to restructure the league for next year.

An Riocht need Rónán McAlinden, Rónán Campbell and Noel McArdle flying on all cylinders if they are to pull off a surprise. Rory Cunningham will likely lead the Kingdom attack with Christopher Flanagan and Sean Clarke trying to keep things tight at the back.

Player to watch: Rory Cunningham (An Riocht).

Sunday (August 28)

3pm at An Riocht: Ballyholland v Longstone

Ballyholland have struggled this year thus far. But they are team that has come good each championship and they will be aiming to make it into the last four for the fourth year in a row. Ruairi and Sean Campbell are great players. John McGovern has be in and out of the team but Harps could do with him. Stephen Loughran, Tiarnan Rushe, Jack Murtagh and Tony Havern are players that will rise to the occasion while Joe and Paul Murphy offer energy.

But they won’t get it easy over a Longstone side, which won the Division Two title, last week after beating Bredagh in the final. Barry Doran, Daithi Young, Tyrone Fegan and Michael Ireland have been in flying form for the Stone. Michael Hughes, Barry Doran and Conor Poland are the heartbeat of this team and Harps will get their fill of it.

Player to watch: Jack Murtagh (Ballyholland)

6pm at Clonduff: CPN v Saul

WARRENPOINT are a team that should be challenging for silverware but have that nagging feeling hovering over them that they blew their chances in recent seasons.

If ever the team has been failed by the backdoor system in their county it has been CPN after all they defeated Burren and Kilcoo in the one season. The golden generation is getting older but at no means over the hill. Ross McGarry is ruled out with injury and his absence is a massive blow for the Point. Shane Mulholland will have his side well organised and they should possess too much for Saul, although last year’s first round defeat to Longstone will mean they won’t be taking anything for granted. Ryan McAleenan, Patrick Murdock, Adam Lynch, Ryan Boyle, Ryan Mallon, Ruairi McCormack, Alan Davidson, Aaron Magee and Donagh McAleenan are well-seasoned athletic footballers and they’ll plan to have a big say in this year’s championship.

Saul's Ciaran Harney will take some watching. Jack Hazzard is a talented keeper, while Callum Mahoney and Pierce Laverty are mobile defenders. Ruairi O'Hare scores for fun regardless of if he lines out in midfield or full-forward and there is no doubt the Warrenpoint men will have him well marked.

Player to watch: Ruairi O’Hare (Saul).

6pm at Downpatrick: Carryduff v Bryansford

This promises to be a cracker between two teams with little between them. Carryduff and Bryansford finished on the same level of points in Division One B.

The Duff will have ambitions on getting their hands on the Frank O’Hare Cup. Owen McCabe, John McGeough and Ronan Beatty are excellent ball players. The pace and power of Guinness brothers Daniel and James along with slick players such as Josh Connery and Rory Anderson makes them a fantastic package.

The Ford have impressed this season, with former Down star Conor Maginn pulling strings but players such as Chris Clarke, Ryan O'Higgins and Sean Og Kelly have stepped up this year. David and Daniel McKibben are long time leaders and they'll hope to get Bryansford over the line.

Player to watch: Joe Tunney (Carryduff).

Monday (August 29) at 7.30pm

At Pairc Esler Newry: Burren v Mayobridge (See back page and page 52).


Thursday (August 25) at 7pm

At Mayobridge: Clann na Banna v Annaclone

ANNACLONE are a championship team. It's in their DNA and that's why teams hate playing them. The rivalry between Clann Na Banna and Annaclone means this could be spicy too. Annaclone were relegated to Division Three but manager Justin Lynch, will have them fired up.

Down's Brendy McArdle and Kevin Anderson have led this time for over a decade and they'll need Gary McArdle, Sean O'Hare and Conor McConville to be on form.

Clann Na Banna will have different ideas and fancy themselves with Garrett Campbell, Eoin Scullion and Patrick Feeney leading the charge, while Conor Lenaghan will take some stopping too.

Player to watch: Benny McArdle (Annaclone).

Friday (August 26) at 7pm

At Dromara: Bright v Drumgath

DRUMGATH are expected to get past Bright having been crowed the Division Three champions over the past fortnight. A team with packed with pace they should possess too much firepower up front. Big Packie Downey will be a handful for Bright to deal with but the Gath are missing full-back Stevie Parsons, top scorer Shea Byrne and Gary O’Reilly from suspension, while joint captain Micael McArdle is away to Doha. Good news is that Down hurler Ryan McCusker is back from his travels and that’s a big plus for Drumgath. Colm Maginn, Ryan Hillen and Cathal Tumilty are top players while Calvin Parson is a superb a great shot-stopper. Still, Bright will have no fear and they'll back themselves to pull off a shock.

Player to watch: Ryan Byrne (Drumgath).

Saturday (August 27)

2pm at Glasdrumman: Attical v Aughlisnafin

ANYTHING other than an Attical win would be a surprise with Ryan Sloan, Chris Morgan and Jamie Donnan their key players. Shea Croskery is a lively player for the Finn and if he is on form, he can trouble Attical.

Player to watch: Adam Garland (Aughlisnafin).

6pm at Pairc Esler: Liatroim v Rostrevor

There is a good chance these teams will meet again as they are favourites to win the title.

Benny Coulter's Rostrevor finished the league with four wins on the trot and they'll hope to win the title they last did when Shane Mulholland was in charge. The Reds had a tough start to the season and they'll be playing Division Two football next year but they'll want to finish their campaign on a high.

Conor Doyle, Patrick Magee, James Rice, Piaras Kane and Tomas Gordon have been in excellent form for the Reds in the second half of the campaign while Shaun Parr knits the team together and brother Jonny gives direction from between the posts.

Liatroim will have their eye on the title too. Liam Middleton can be hard to handle while the McCrickard lads Eoin, Ronan, Conor and Pearse Og all know where the posts are. Eoin O'Hare has been impressive while corner back Sean Duggan likes to burst forward. This should be a tasty game and no team will want to meet the losers in the backdoor.

Player to watch: Shaun Parr (Rostrevor).

7pm at Kilcoo: Tullylish v Darragh Cross

Darragh Cross have Marcus Miskelly up front, Shane Murray is a vital cog around the middle of the park, with Eoin McGrattan usually helping out and Declan McSorley is a tidy footballer. But Tullylish will be waiting to take on the Cross. Caolan Doyle, Reece McInerny and Kevin McCartan are scoring forwards, while Michael Breen and Simon Byrne will likely take on any marking duties.

Owen Donnelly and Danny McCartan make a formidable midfield partnership and Tullylish will hope to build from there on Saturday.

Player to watch: Odhran Connolly (Tullylish).

Sunday (August 28)

1pm at Castlewellan: Saval v St Paul’s

SAVAL are a team that should be pushing to make it to the latter stages of the competition and they can lay down a marker against St Paul's, although that won't be easy.

Saval have blooded a lot of young players and they are a relatively youthful team. Dean Rice can pack a punch in front of goal, while Kealan Rice can make things happen in attack too. Niall Devlin and Ethan Lennon have seen the good and not so days with the south Down club. Jarlath McCarthy is a fantastic defender while Ryan Rice and Curtis Sands will hope to hold their hold around midfield.

Holywood side St Paul's will be no walkover and they will be hoping to build on progress made since winning the Junior title. Liam Hogan and Tom Gray are expected to start, while Josh Gray likely be given a marking role on Saval’s Dean Rice will Niall Grimley can pose a threat at the edge of the square.

Player to watch: Jarlath McCarthy (Saval).

1pm at Rostrevor: Bosco v Ballymartin.

BALLYMARTIN should have too much firepower for a Bosco team that hasn’t had the best of seasons. The evergreen Peter Fitzpatrick has been in exceptional form this season at half forward, ably assisted by Rory Philips. Adrian Doran and Jordan Fegan, formerly of Rostrevor, are big game players but they’ll be missing star man Ryan O’Hare, who is ruled out for season through ACL injury.

Bosco are boosted with the return of key man Aaron Beattie, who was in Doha, while Oisin Carnegie is an athletic player who covers a lot of ground. The Newry City side will need young Patrick Ruddy to take his chances in front of goal but they’ll need to help him out. Declan Byrne is a strong midfielder but he or Carnegie could be used to try and foil the influence of Fitzpatrick.

Player to watch: Paul Quinn (Ballymartin),

Monday (August 29) at 7pm

St Patrick’s Park Newcastle: St John’s v Newry Shamrocks.

Newry Shamrocks first objective of winning promotion to Division Three has been achieved. St John’s have always been a tricky opponent in the championship and they’ll be dangerous for anyone once it gets to the knockout stages. County man Andrew Gilmore is a fantastic prospect and he will keep Shamrocks busy.

The Newry side will need Luke Byrne, Damien McKeown, Mark Harte, Jack Heaney and Jordan Murphy on top of their game if they are to make any headway.

St John's lively Chris and Danny McKay are a good attack-minded footballers while Mark Grant and Caolan Murray will look to take the sting out of Shamrocks' tale.

Player to watch: James Dickson (Shamrocks).

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