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Bredagh hurler Donal Hughes part of the Down panel that faces the Exiles for a place in the Christy Ring Cup final

Hughes hoping to get the London call

By David Mohan

DONAL Hughes believes the confidence has returned to Down hurling following their dismal National League campaign.

The Ardsmen take on London in Newry this Saturday for a place in the Christy Ring Cup final against either Meath or Wicklow and the Bredagh club man claims that victory can banish the memory of their relegation to Division 2B.

Gerard Monan’s charges suffered the ignominy of a winless league campaign where they only picked up one point following a draw with Wicklow.

The sides met again in the relegation play-off and it was the Garden County that triumphed, condemning Down into the fourth tier of league hurling.



However, since that disappointment, Down have turned their year around and a 0-19 to 0-17 victory over Mayo in the opening round of the Christy Ring competition helped restore confidence according to Hughes.

“We had a dodgy enough league campaign but we have started to pick things up recently and got a couple of wins on the trot so confidence has come back,” he said.

“It was great to get that first win over Mayo and after that there was a real confidence about training.

“That really helped us going into the game against Meath.”

At half time against the Royals, it seemed the victory over Mayo was nothing more than a false dawn as they trailed by five points having fallen 1-6 to 0-0 behind early on.

However, in the second period, Down made a much better impression with the introduction of Hughes a major factor why they finished up winners by 2-23 to 1-19.

“I have been happy how this year has gone. I have been playing a lot more of the games and when I came on against Meath I felt I did well so hopefully I get to start this weekend,” said the 20-year old. London stand in their way of a place in the final set to be played at Croke Park on June 9.

The Exiles recovered from an opening round defeat to Meath before accounting for Mayo and Derry to reach this stage.



Since the inception of the Christy Ring Cup in 2005, Down have contested two finals (Westmeath in 2005 and Carlow in 2009) but lost both so the hope that they can finally secure some silverware but perhaps more importantly, secure a place at the top table of hurling as they can enter the Liam McCarthy race in 2013.

Hughes believes home advantage could be crucial this weekend but is expecting a tough game against their dangerous opponents.

“It’s a big advantage playing at home. It would have been much more difficult playing over in London but as it is, they have to do all the travelling and will be at a disadvantage,” admitted the Finance student at Queen’s University Belfast.

“They are definitely getting better as there are so many people moving over to London at present.

“It will be a tough game but it is one we know that we can win.

“It would be a huge lift to hurling in the county if we can win the Christy Ring this year.

“Not many people get the opportunity to play in Croke Park so it’s one I want to take.

“We have been in two finals and a semi-final last year but this would be a real lift to hurling in the county if we could do it this time and get into the Liam McCarthy.”


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