IN all the talk about Down’s incredible record at Croke Park prior to yesterday’s game, the fact that their appearances in All-Ireland finals had only been sporadic over the past 50 years had been overlooked by many.
Not by this current set-up, though, and while their unbeaten record in the September showdown may be no more, Danny Hughes revealed that there is huge motivation within the camp to be more regular visitors to HQ at this time of year. Hughes was one of the Mourne men’s premier performers, combining tireless running, tracking and tackling with an eye for a score that yielded three points from play.
Normally a very good-humoured individual, he spoke in hushed tones as the agony of getting so close to laying a hand on Sam Maguire tore through him. An hour had elapsed since the final whistle had seen them fall that dreaded point short but when prompted, Hughes allowed himself to look forward.
“None of us want to be one-hit wonders,” he said. “Next to myself and Benny (Coulter) there’s Brendan McVeigh and Damian Rafferty (who have been around a while) but there’s young lads champing at the bit to get into the panel and into the team. There is a great development squad coming through and these boys are hungry and we’ll probably have to tell them in the next couple of months that these things don’t happen every year but I’m sure we’ll learn from this experience and use it in the next couple of years.”
The Saval forward paid credit to the management team of James McCartan, Paddy Tolan and Brian McIver for the manner in which they shielded the players from any pressure in relation to the county’s record in All-Ireland finals.
“I wouldn’t think it added any extra pressure; there’s always pressure when you’re playing in an All-Ireland final.
“Personally I didn’t want to be on the first Down team that was beaten in an All-Ireland final but I don’t think it weighed heavier or put extra pressure on us.”
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