Carlow welcome Down to Dr Cullen Park this afternoon in a game that could potentially have a huge say in the final Allianz Football League Division 3 standings.
A win for Down could see them promoted back to Division 2, while defeat for Carlow could plunge them into a final day relegation scrap.
While the game has huge ramifications for both counties, for Steven Poacher it is more than that. Today, the Down man goes to battle with his native county for the first time.
Poacher still lives in the county, eating, sleeping, breathing Down football.
“It is of course (his first time against Down).” Poacher told Pundit Arena.
“I worked with Down for 10 years from 2006-2016 from every level right up until u21 level. It’s obviously my own county, I’ve coached in Down for the last 11 years at Division 1 level as well, there’s very few players in the county that I wouldn’t know.”
“I would have coached a lot of the players at school, at development squad level and at club level, I probably know the talent that Down possess more than most.”
Despite his allegiances with Carlow, Poacher is still very much a Down fan at heart. The Ballyholland man admits to attending games this season as a supporter, however, he knows exactly where his loyalties lie ahead of today’s game.
“I’m a passionate Down fan, I’ve actually managed to get to a couple of games this year as a supporter which is a surreal feeling. It was funny, we played Westmeath, then I was in Newry the next week supporting Down against Westmeath and people were asking me was I there as a coach or a supporter.
“Make no mistake about it though, next Saturday my focus has to be on getting the Carlow lads right and getting their heads right, it’s not about me against Down or Down versus Poacher, it’s about Carlow versus Down which is a fantastic occasion for Carlow people to have a county with the stature, reputation and tradition of Down come here.”
Poacher admits that the two teams probably came into this league campaign with contrasting expectations. Carlow were promoted for the first time in three decades last year, while Down are historically a top-tier side.
However, such is the nature of Division 3, nothing is guaranteed as we head down the home stretch.
“We were under no illusions, our aspirations were probably different to other teams. Down came into the league probably looking maximum points, Down came in with huge expectations of promotion.
“We haven’t had that and I suppose our priorities were slightly different, our priority was to try and get to that magical 6 or 7 point marker as soon as we possibly could and to be fair we probably could very easily have been hitting maximum points, we were very unlucky.
“But Division 3 is a very competitive league and what probably hasn’t helped is that familiarity breeds contempt, there are six Leinster teams there and they are all capable of beating each other on their day so, thats caused a few shock results that you didn’t see coming.
“We’ve two games left and we need to find two points from those two games, but we’re just going to be focusing on Down. Look at their strenghts, we’ll look at our game and hopefully try and put the pieces of the jig saw in place to give Down a really good game, that’s all we can ask for.”
Poacher is looking forward to the match and welcoming his native county to Carlow.
He knows that the travelling Down support will be treated well, but admits that right now there is no room for emotion or sentiment as there’s a task at hand.
“Carlow people are very hospitable and I think the Down supporters travelling to the game will really enjoy it and I think the players will really enjoy it as well, Dr Cullen Park is one of the finest grounds in the country. It’s a beautiful ground, lovely town, lovely people, lovely county.
“The Down people will be welcomed with open arms but look, for me there’s no real room for emotion or sentiment in sport you just get on with it and that’s what we have to do on Saturday and may the best team win.”