Mark Poland well aware what champions Donegal are all about but Down going in without fear
Forward reckons if they can bring their ‘A game’ to Breffni Park, they will be fine
Down forward Mark Poland (right) gets up close and personal with Donegal counterpart Leo McLoone at a media event for Sunday’s Ulster SFC semi-final at Kingspan Breffni park. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
There are lots of bold and eloquent ways of describing what Donegal are capable of doing in Sunday’s Ulster football semi-final, and Down forward Mark Poland is not exactly denying this.
“Look,” he says, “if we concede anything like the scores we did the last day we’ll be sent straight back up the road with our tails between our legs. Simple as that.”
Poland’s observation is doubly apt – especially considering “the last day”, they conceded 1-15 to Derry in the quarter-final. Then there’s the 2-18 they allowed Donegal to rack up against them in last summer’s Ulster final, 1-13 of which came in the second half.
That 11-point win represented Donegal’s biggest victory margin in the 2012 championship. Towards the end, even Down manager James McCartan had to stand back in admiration, removing his earpiece as a gesture of his complete and utter surrender to Donegal’s ravaging superiority.
What Poland offers, with equal simplicity, however, is the potential within Down to seriously test the All-Ireland champions – perhaps even put a halt to their quest for a third successive Ulster title.
Speaking at a pre-match event in Kingspan Breffni Park, the venue for Sunday’s game, Poland sounded quietly confident that the thrill and fear of the rollercoaster ride that was their quarter-final against Derry will have served them well.
Down let Derry score 1-9 in the first half, then hit back with 2-5 within 14 minutes of the second half, winning by five points in the end.
“Again we know if we concede those kind of scores against Donegal we’ll be out on a whimper. We also know we’re not going to get nearly as much space in the forward line as the last day. Goal chances will be few and far between. Which just means that any few chances we do get we’re going to have to take.
“But really it’s about tightening up all over the field, regarding conceding scores. I think what happened in the first half against Derry was probably just a lack of concentration. It’s definitely not a lack of confidence.
“I’d say we’re quite a confident bunch. I know against Derry we had a good talk at half- time, and just made sure we were a lot harder to break down in the second half.
“We also made sure to win more ball at midfield, which helped too. So really, it’s just about being a wee bit more concentrated all over the field.”