Down will go into Sunday’s Ulster Hurling Championship semi-final clash against Armagh on Sunday at 3.30pm as favourites to clinch a place in the final and set up a meeting with Antrim on June 28.
Both sides will enter the clash in Casement Park with two wins out of two so far in this year’s Ulster Championship.
Armagh comfortably overcame Fermanagh in their opening encounter before putting Monaghan to the sword with a twelve point victory in the quarter-final. Favourites Down on the other hand were forced to dig deep in a tough clash against Donegal. They easily dismissed Derry however, running out 16 point winners and throwing down the gauntlet to championship contenders Antrim.
Not historically known as a hurling stronghold, the Ulster championship has been dominated by Antrim who have won the competition on 50 occassions. However Down will be hoping to challenge this record and capture their first Ulster hurling championship since 1997 and their fifth overall.
They are hotly tipped against Armagh who have not appeared in the provincial final since 1946. However according to Down boss Gerard Monan, his side will not be taking anything for granted. Monan praised the development of the Armagh side in recent years, particularly the efforts of present coach Mickey Johnston and he is expecting a strong challenge from the Armagh men.
“Armagh have been doing a lot of work these past few years and it’s starting to come to fruition. Mickey Johnston is a good coach and they’ll be getting well trained and well schooled. It’s not something to be taken lightly.”
“If we sit back and let Armagh dictate, we’ll be in serious trouble. We’re taking this very seriously.”