Ulster SFC: League 'hurt' driving Down's Ulster title bid

Down skipper Darren O'Hagan's wife Paula captained Clonduff to the Down, Ulster and All-Ireland intermediate camogie titles this year
Down skipper Darren O'Hagan's wife Paula captained Clonduff to the Down, Ulster and All-Ireland intermediate camogie titles this year
2019 Ulster SFC: Down v Armagh
Date: Sunday 19 May Venue: Pairc Esler, Newry Throw-in: 16:00 BST
Coverage: BBC2 (deferred) at 19:00 BST and live commentary on Radio Ulster MW and the BBC Sport website

Down captain Darren O'Hagan accepts the Mourne county and championship opponents Armagh are "nowhere near" favourites to win an Ulster SFC title.

The neighbours meet in a first round derby on Sunday, with the winner taking on Monaghan or Cavan in the semi-final.

Down were surprise Ulster finalists in 2017 but have not won the trophy since 1994. Armagh's last title was in 2008.

"Neither of us are expected to get to an Ulster final but it's something you always feel you can do," O'Hagan said.

"Ourselves and Armagh are nowhere near the favourites because there's the big three of Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan and they are the big three for a reason.

"They've dominated Ulster titles for the last 10 years so it would be a complete upset if Down or Armagh won an Ulster ahead of them, but that won't stop us trying."

Darren O'Hagan led Down to a surprise Ulster SFC final appearance in 2017 which they lost by eight points to Tyrone
Darren O'Hagan led Down to a surprise Ulster SFC final appearance in 2017 which they lost by eight points to Tyrone

Down shocked Armagh in Pairc Esler in the first round two years ago and Armagh will again be favourites when they return to Newry on Sunday.

"The roles are flipped in that they were a Division Three side then and we were Division Two, now they're the ones in Division Two playing a higher standard of football," O'Hagan said.

The captain says his team will be using the hurt of narrowly losing out on promotion from Division Three, when they lost their final game at home against Louth, to drive them on this summer.

"It was in our hands, it was sickening for a few weeks because we didn't perform and just missed out by one point.

"We had no-one else to blame so you have to use things like that in sport to give you a drive.

"There's no better way to lift yourself than having Armagh coming to Newry. It is the biggest rivalry I know and will bring a great buzz between the two counties.

"Right from the off in the parade it will be an electric match."