Down will be in Senior One next season.

They secured the championship title following a 3-1 win over Parkview last Friday night and while it wasn't the Malone Park side's best performance of the season, this final fixture was all about the result.

A draw would have been good enough before the start of play but, as things turned out, title rivals Armagh were defeated by Portrush last weekend which meant Down were promoted, irrespective of what happened against Parkview.

The game should have been played in Downpatrick, but was switched with the agreement of both sides to Ballyclare High School where Down produced a particularly poor performance.

They scored three times, but struggled to win possession for large periods of the game. In the end, though, all that mattered was that the final performance of the season was good enough to win the league.

Last season, Down lost out to South Antrim in a play-off to decide who would be promoted; this year they secured their place in Senior One after a superb campaign which saw them lose just twice.

And while the curtain has come down, the players know the hard work starts now and that they must prepare for what will be a massive challenge next season. The main priority is simple Ñ maintain their place in the league and use that as the platform to build for future success.

One area the locals need to focus on is recruiting new players. Additional firepower up front and key defensive cover are essential in a league where teams travel with squads of 13 or 14. Fielding a bare eleven in Senior One is simply not an option.

With a new synthetic pitch on the way, things are looking rosy for the locals whose hard work has paid a handsome dividend.

Over the course of the season, Down were in a league of their own, despite slipping up against Portrush and Armagh. And, like last season, they finished with one of the best defensive records in senior hockey.

But the locals can't afford to be complacent.

Crucially, no one knows this more than the players. Sinclair White returns next year to add much-needed steel to the team as it faces the demands and rigours of Senior One.

Last Friday night the script had been prepared and Down were going to win the game comfortably. But that's not quite how things worked out.

Whether it was the weight of expectation on their shoulders or the fact they just had an off night, things did not go according to plan and the win was certainly not as comprehensive as the scoreline suggests.

Down took the lead in the 10th minute through Ashley Gibson who picked his spot past Richard Nesbitt and with their noses in front, the locals tried to do everything at 100 miles an hour on a huge pitch, which took its toll of more than a few legs.

The dangerous Paul Harvey went close with a few short corner shots, while at the other end, Gibson and the dangerous Chris Taylor went close from similar set-pieces. Parkview did equalise midway through the half and both sides were all square going into the break.

At this stage Down had the point they needed and the emphasis during the half-time team talk was to keep things tight and not given anything away.

Down created a number of half-chances when the second period got underway, but they failed to test Nesbitt. But midway through the half, the locals doubled their advantage and heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Chris Lennon, who had a superb game on the left side of the defence, started the move which led to the goal. He exchanged passes with Taylor and his whipped cross into the penalty area was driven home by Elliott.

With 10 minutes to go, Elliott, Down's goal-poacher supreme, scored his second of the night to book his side a place in Senior One next season.

The impressive Taylor was again involved in the build-up to the goal, supplying the killer pass for Elliott to scored.

Parkview created a few chances in both halves, but were denied by a brilliant performance by Down defender, James Erskine, who proved once again he is one of the best defenders in the league.

He will have his work cut out next season, but forwards who come up against him will come to realise what a great tackler he is. Erskine reads the game superbly and has been outstanding over the past eight months.

Down players rightly celebrated at the end; their efforts over the season have been richly rewarded and while the hard work starts now, the Malone Park players know they have to hit the ground running come September.