Back on track test for Down

Back on track test for Down

7 February 2018

IT was a case of one step forward, two steps back for Down’s senior footballers following Sunday’s defeat to Cork.

However, the county hurlers continued their winning ways with an emphatic 1-24 to 0-16 win over Wicklow in Ballycran and the senior ladies bounced back from last week’s defeat to Meath by beating Roscommon 5-6 to 2-9 in Downpatrick.

Eamon Burns’ side rightly deserved the plaudits last week for their display against Louth, but the wheels came off at Pairc Esler on Sunday when Cork went home with the points after registering a 1-13 to 0-10 victory.

Down were simply off the boil as Cork smothered them with a high intensity approach that stifled all attempts to get the ball into a forward line that was starved of possession.

However, even his presence failed to inspire Down and things went from bad to worse when a clearly frustrated Harrison was red-carded late on for an off the ball incident. He will now miss Sunday’s game against Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park.

Cork, who were beaten in their opener by Tipperary, arrived in Newry with a relatively young and inexperienced squad, but they got their tactics spot on and prevented Down from building things from the back.

They worked aggressively at targeting Shane Harrison’s kick outs, long and short and this ploy went a long way to setting the Rebels up for a deserved victory. 

Burns was disappointed by his side’s display, but far from disheartened by what he saw.

“I was disappointed at the result, but there are always positives to be taken from any defeat,” he insisted.

“I thought we were in the game at half-time, but we didn’t take all the chances that were presented to us. I thought we contained Cork reasonably well. We had a very good start to the second half, got back level, really dominated a 10-12 minute period, but then in the space of about four minutes Cork got a goal and two points and effectively killed the game,” he added.

Burns doesn’t think that the defeat to Cork will have much bearing on this weekend’s game away to Roscommon.

“I don’t think it’ll change the task that’s in front of us. They have three points, so we have to go to Dr Hyde Park, dust ourselves down, roll our sleeves up and get ready for it,” he enthused.

Roscommon have won their last three Allianz League meetings with Down and will be no pushovers.

Kevin McStay’s side drew with Meath in their opening game before getting the better of a fancied Tipperary on Sunday.

Down will have to be wary of a Roscommon attack who seem to be scoring goals for fun, but it is expected that Burns will resists calls for changes in the Mourne defence.

Shane Harrison should again be between the posts with Colm Flanagan, who had his hands full with Colm O’Neill’s physicality on Sunday, Benny McArdle and Darren O’Hagan manning the full back line.

Darren O’Hanlon, Niall McParland and Anthony Doherty did little wrong in the half back sector, but consideration will have to be given to bringing Barry O’Hagan, David McKibbin and Kevin McKernan into this line.

Down struggled at midfield against Cork and Peter Turley looks the most likeliest suspect to bolster the engine room.

The Down attack also looked ill at ease and room could be found for Ryan Johnston, O’Hagan or McKernan.

Down will do well to get a result on Sunday, but as ever, hope springs eternal.