Ulster final experience will stand to Down players says Eamonn Burns
Ulster Senior Football Championship final: Down 0-15 Tyrone 2-17
DESPITE losing by eight points and being overrun early in the second half, Eamonn Burns insists yesterday’s Ulster final defeat will be of benefit to his young Down side in the long run.
The Mournemen have been one of the stories of the Championship summer so far, putting a tough Allianz League campaign behind them to take the derby spoils against Armagh before stunning Monaghan in the semi-final.
But Tyrone just proved a bridge too far.
And after a close first half, the Red Hands turned on the style after the break, scoring the first seven points of the second half before substitute Ronan O’Neill bagged two poacher’s goals as the Down challenge ran aground.
Yet Burns was encouraged to see his men finish the game strongly and believes that, despite their obvious disappointment, it is an experience that will serve them well in time.
“On the day the best team won and I thought it was very encouraging how we finished the game. We kept battling to the end, we didn’t throw the towel in, so that will stand us in good stead,” he said.
“The other thing we have to factor in is that was our first time in an Ulster final. Tyrone, some of those boys it was their second or even their fourth. All those things come to play but I have to say, I am very proud of them.
“Experience is crucial, their experience in those situations is massive and Tyrone had more experience than we had.”
Down were well in the game in the first half and only trailed by a point when Darragh O’Hanlon blazed a gilt-edged goal chance wide minutes before the break.
Yet their attacking play never quite matched the levels shown against the Farneymen the last time out, and they were unable to get Connaire Harrison and Jerome Johnston on the ball as much as they would have liked.
Burns added: “We probably weren’t getting ball to them in the right areas which was probably a tribute to the way they were set up.
“In the first half we were a bit tentative in the way we attacked them. In the second half, okay the game was away on us and they have stepped back a bit. We ran at them, punched holes, it seemed to pay dividends for us. We didn’t do that in the first half.
“When you look at the scoreline, they scored 19 times, we scored 15 times – there is not a massive gulf in that. The two goals were crucial and goals win you games. We will get back to Newry on Tuesday and have a look at things, see what is drawn for us tomorrow.”
Down will play either Armagh or Monaghan again when the Qualifier draw is made this morning, and Burns insists it doesn’t matter which of Down’s former foes they are paired against.
“I’ve no preference. We’ll see who it is on Monday and then we’ll set our stall out.
“We’re coming off the back of a defeat, they’re coming off the back of a win so it’s up to the management team to get the players up again and ready to go in a fortnight’s time.
“We’ll definitely be doing our very best to have the players ready to compete again on Saturday week.”