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Down blame TV for timing of U-21 final

DOWN are resigned to playing their All-Ireland U-21 FC semi-final against Mayo tomorrow, despite retaining their Ulster title just two days ago.

Having two big championship games within four days goes against all of Croke Park's recent preachings about burnout, especially for teenage players.

"But as we didn't know until mid-week whether or not we would get through, there was no point in trying to get it changed beforehand," said manager Pete McGrath.

"It's hardly ideal," he added. "But the Ulster championship ran a week behind all the others and it seems to be the television schedule which is dictating the timing of tomorrow's games. They appear to be fixed in stone and there's really nothing we can do about it. Down (seniors) are playing in the Division 3 final next week which, I believe, has also been scheduled for a Saturday night because of TV."

In fact, the fixing of the Division 3 NFL final against Tipperary for Longford at 6.30 tomorrow week has raised the hackles of Down senior boss Ross Carr.

"Is the prize of gaining promotion to be sent to Longford on a Saturday night? It is absolutely scandalous," Carr blasted. "We are now facing a 12-hour trip and by the time there's a presentation after the match and you have a meal somewhere, you're not home until 12 or 1.0 in the morning."

Carr said it would have made much more sense to play the Division 3 final as part of a triple-header with the Division 1 and 2 finals at Croke Park a day later.

"In many respects, Tipperary are the fairytale story of the whole League campaign, gaining promotion for the second year running, and I'm sure their footballers would have loved the opportunity to play in Croke Park as much as ourselves," he added.

McGrath is just grateful that his

U-21 side came through Wednesday night's Ulster final with a relatively clean bill of health. Their only expected change sees the return of corner-back Mark Digney. Mayo are expected to name an unchanged side after senior players Tom Parsons, Aidan O'Shea and Kevin McLoughlin all came through last weekend's NFL game with Tyrone unscathed.

Cork have injury worries for the other U-21 semi-final, against Dublin in Thurles tomorrow (3.30). Full-back Jamie O'Sullivan broke a finger in a club hurling match last weekend which looks set to rule him out. And the Rebels also have a doubt over wing-forward Ciaran Sheehan.

Dublin have their own injury problems in wing-backs Chris Guckian and Johnny Cooper, but Guckian trained earlier this week for the first time in a fortnight.

A prominent Aussie Rules recruiter, Francis Jackson of the Richmond Tigers, attended Wednesday night's Ulster U-21 final and said he will also attend this weekend's U-21 semi-finals.

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