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‘You don’t win without having the character Laverty has’ – Hughes

The Ulsterman believes the depth of knowledge the Mourne manager has on the sideline is enough to see his side win the Tailteann Cup

Former Down football star Danny Hughes believes that his county has real potential to cause Meath real damage this weekend in Croke Park.

The former half-forward feels that the Mourne men have developed a perfectionist attitude this season that could carry them to Tailteann Cup success in Conor Laverty’s first season in charge.

“I think looking at the semi-final, it’s fair to say Laois had an off day when they played us and it wasn’t a fair reflection on their season,” said Hughes.

“But Down were brilliant. They were very mobile, and they were dangerous going forward. All these things are strong attributes in Conor Laverty’s teams.

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“If they get half a sniff at all, they go for the goal. And that’s something we haven’t seen from this side in a long time. They have a real winning mentality now.”

He also points to the professional mindset added by the Ulster manager.

“Look how far Down were ahead against Laois. But even conceding 2-12, you know that Conor (Laverty) still would’ve been disappointed with that because he’s such a perfectionist.

“You don’t win an All-Ireland club title without having the drive and character that Conor has.

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“You’re dealing at the top level and certainly Down sent out a message the last day, but they know this will be a very different game.

“They hit 17 wides when these sides met in the Tailteann Cup group stages. The lads know that’s not good enough, but this weekend is an entirely different occasion.”

From a Meath point of view, while Hughes has also seen major improvements in the team, he feels that they haven’t tidied up in defence, an area where the Mourne men could take advantage of.

“It’ll be interesting to see how Meath set up, but if Colm O’Rourke’s side are as open as they were against Antrim . . . I can only see one winner.

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“Down will play in very small pockets,” said Hughes.

“They have nippy players that will play between the lines which is going to be hard to break down.

Meath have more physicality, but the question is, can they stay with the speed and pace that our boys will bring to the game?

“Colm O’Rourke would’ve always been in the mind of traditional football in terms of kicking the ball forward and moving the ball fast.

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“So, it’s going to be interesting to see how he stops the Down attack and focus more on his defensive system, because with the gaps that Meath created the last day, if they’re there this weekend, Down will punish them.”

Speaking on OTB, the Saval club man sees the secondary competition, when treated with respect as a major building block for sides that have been stuck in the doldrums for years.

“I see the Tailteann Cup as a stepping g stone for teams. But it’s obviously not where you want to be as a player, you want to be in the main championship.

“Just looking from a personal point of view, a secondary competition was never something I was enthused about.

“But given how much it has taken off and how much Westmeath improved from last year, it’s something that really has grown on me.

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“I’d rather if the county was in a semi-final with Monaghan and Derry this weekend, but it is what it is.

“Down have a large number of players who have been around for a while despite the team being so young.

“So, they have the experience of competing at a top level, especially when you throw the Kilcoo lads into the team too.

“There’s now a quiet confidence in the team that standards have been raised.“

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