Down goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh says that while reaching last year’s All-Ireland final was a fine achievement, it will count for nothing this time around.
The Mourne Men, who were beaten by Cork in the 2010 decider, begin their Ulster campaign with a tricky tie against Armagh, and McVeigh knows that looking too far ahead can prove costly.
“It [reaching the All-Ireland final] affects different players in different ways,” he says.
“There are lads there playing with a bit more freedom, but people talk about last year’s ‘success’ and we still don’t have any medals in our pockets.
“That’s what we’re striving for, but if we look further than Armagh we’ll be caught on the hop.
“I know it sounds repetitive, but we’re looking no further than Armagh, we just have to take it one game at a time.”
There were plenty positives to be taken from 2010 from a Down point of view, but equally there are lessons to be learned, according to McVeigh.
“Individually, I’ve had to look at a few things myself, for example, kick-outs and trying to retain possession,” he says.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t look at that too much last year and it jumped up and bit us in the behind.
“We had a good run, and everybody has to take positives from it but there’s nothing in the back pocket.
“Last year was very surreal, it was like a rollercoaster, every game was different. That was the beauty of the qualifiers and we probably learned from it, but we’d love to win Ulster again, 1994 was the last time we did it.
“Different teams approach it in different ways, but sometimes if you lose you can learn more than by winning.”
McVeigh missed much of the league due to injury, but is keen to be back in action for the clash with the Orchard County.
“I hurt my knee against Dublin,” he says, “I ran into Barry Cahill and it wasn’t a very pleasant feeling.
“I had had a small injury coming in but that was actually the opposite knee, it was a totally different thing. People were saying that it was rustiness and I shouldn’t have been playing but I felt fine.
“It was a bit of bruising and a bit of damage to the ligaments but I’ve been resting it and icing it, I should be fine.”
The league as a whole was positive for Down, with the main objective of status-retention achieved, but McVeigh feels that they could have done better.
“Our goal was to retain Division 1 status and we did that, I wouldn’t say comfortably enough, but we did it with a game or two in hand.
“In the end, we could maybe have made the final if a couple of results had gone our way, we probably could have got a win against Mayo in the first game of the season, but we were happy enough.
“We tried out a few different players in different positions, that hopefully bodes well coming into the championship, every team picks up injuries so these lads are going to be playing.”
Ultimately, games against Kerry, Cork and Dublin failed to provide wins for James McCartan’s side, something McVeigh would have liked.
“It would have been nice, surely,” he says.
“It was great playing those sides but we were looking for results and we never got them, they were the teams that we were looking to play to see where we were at and we didn’t get any points.
“That was disappointing.”