Hughes: We can't look beyond Fermanagh

Hughes: We can't look beyond Fermanagh

Danny Hughes is confident that Down are serious contenders for the Ulster SFC title this summer, but knows not to underestimate the challenge Fermanagh will pose in their quarter-final clash on Sunday, June 3.

Down have not lifted the Anglo-Celt Cup since their All-Ireland winning year of 1994, but Hughes says there is no reason not to believe 2012 can be their year.

"What Donegal did last year gives everybody a bit of confidence to go there and perform and I think it is important that we can get a provincial title, yes," admitted the play-making forward, speaking at Ulster Bank's launch of their 2012 GAA campaign.

"But we haven't looked any further than Fermanagh to be honest and that is very much our focus."

Fermanagh are minus their captain Ryan McCloskey through a sinus cavity fracture and while Hughes says he will be a major loss, the Ernesiders possess a formidable side overall.

“It's a credit to Peter Canavan and his backroom team for reinvigorating the team and taking them to a position where they got promoted, which was a superb thing to do.

“I would say that Ryan McCloskey will be a major loss for Fermanagh if indeed he is out. Given the past, anything is possible with regards to any player playing.

“Fermanagh are more than just one player and they are going to be very hard to play against. Hopefully we can get a result."

Hughes agrees with the statement that Fermanagh tend to come under the radar approaching the Championship each year and that is when they are most dangerous.

“Obviously Fermanagh have some very talented players. Very experienced players as well who have been at quarter-final and semi-final stages of the All-Ireland Championship.

“They are used to the big stage as well let's not forget and they are going to be a very formidable outfit especially down there (at Brewster Park).

“There will be a full house with Peter Canavan over them in his first Championship match and we'll see how it goes.”

Looking closer to home, the loss of Benny Coulter due to a broken ankle is a major blow to James McCartan's men. Hughes says he will miss lining out alongside the Mayobridge clubman in attack.

“I have been playing with Benny for a long time and he is a class act. Without a doubt he is a class act and he will be sorely missed personally and by the Down team,” he added.

“Obviously it will be up to someone else to come into the position and try and stake a claim there. We have some good young talent there and I think that they will hopefully step up to the mark.”

Dan Gordon (metatarsal) is still on the injury list also, but Hughes is thankful that there are no other serious injury concerns in a Down panel that has a strong mix of youth and experience.

“Hopefully that is the end of the injuries. There's young lads who have come into the panel recently, Darren O'Hagan, Donal O'Hare and Niall McParland are playing super.

“Some of the older lads as well like Mark Poland, Aidan Carr and Conor Laverty are also doing well and overall I think we have a strong panel who are capable of going to Fermanagh and getting the result.

”A good blend of youth and experience there. Obviously there's no Peter Pans on the team and we have to go and deliver and that's the key goal."

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