Life in Senior One was never going to be a picnic for Down.

And the locals know that against some of the top teams in the division, it's going to be a case of damage limitation. This was a case in point at Donard Park last Saturday when Down were defeated by a Raphoe outfit which is tipped for promotion this season.

Down did play well in spells, showing that it's not going to be all doom and gloom over the coming months, and while Raphoe scored six, home skipper, Jeremy McCready took three goal-bound shots off the line.

It could have been worse, but it wasn't and Down have the perfect opportunity to get their season up and running with a win over Cliftonville this Saturday. It's a game they know they have to take something from and one which they will be determined to win.

But back to last Saturday. Raphoe were 2-0 ahead after three minutes and it looked as though it was going to be one of those afternoons when everything the visitors hit went into the net. The fact it wasn't was due to some resilient defending.

Raphoe took the lead when an unmarked forward crashed the ball past Mark Johnston with just a minute on the clock. Two minutes later, the Donegal men were celebrating again. Their second came from a short corner and while an initial shot was saved, the rebound was driven into the net. The floodgates could have opened but they didn't. Gavin Ringland thought he had "scored" midway through the half but his effort was disallowed by the umpire who awarded a long corner instead.

With Raphoe forced to defend at this point in the game, Alasdair Duff was cruelly denied by a wonder save from Davy Buchanan in the Raphoe goal. Duff picked the ball up in the full-back spot and after playing a few passes with Ringland and Sinclair White he found himself inside the penalty area where he unleashed a shot which had "goal" written all over it before Buchanan somehow kept it out.

In the second half, Down controlled the opening 15 minutes as Raphoe struggled to get possession, with Stephen Ferguson, James Erskine, Chris Lennon and Chris Taylor all outstanding.

Down showed in the second half that they can compete and with Aaron Minnis and Paul Tate due to return to the squad soon, the locals will be able to pick up some much-needed points.

Raphoe's third goal came from a short corner, while the fourth came from play. The visitors went 5-0 ahead courtesy of a volleyed shot which gave Johnston no chance while the sixth came courtesy of a clinically executed reverse stick shot which saw the ball fly into the net at ferocious speed.

Well beaten perhaps, but Down have enough to compete with the best and hopefully pick up points against the teams in the lower reaches of the league. That quest starts this weekend against Cliftonville.