GAA Football

Off The Fence: Kicking a county when it's Down - supporters get stuck in after collapse in Clare leaves Mourne County struggling

Down boss Eamonn Burns saw his side well beaten by Clare in Ennis at the weekend
Neil Loughran

CHINNED by newly-promoted Clare, players walking off the panel, talk of angry exchanges on the line, a wind of general discontent swirling right across the Mournes – and that’s all before the Off The Fence punters have had their say.

Talk about kicking a county when it’s Down, but punters have been donning steel toe-capped DM boots and queuing up to do exactly that following the weekend capitulation in Ennis.

In his Kicking Out column on Tuesday, my colleague Cahair O’Kane argued that while manager Eamonn Burns was not without blame for the perilous position in which Down now find themselves, the county’s problems run much deeper.

‘CONCERNED Club Chairman’ agrees.

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Cahair O'Kane on his very insightful article,” said ‘CCC’.

“Unfortunately he really only scratched the surface of the difficulties that exist in our county, and until there is a sea change at the highest levels within the Down County Board real change cannot take place.”


IF ‘Concerned Club Chairman’ didn’t beat about the bush when suggesting where the bulk of the blame lies for Down’s ills, ‘Sean’ is even more adamant.

He said: “There’s one problem in Down, and that is the county board, has been for years.

“Don’t blame the players, don’t blame Eamonn Burns, he’s a gentleman, he’s trying his best. End of story – county board, that’s the problem and it’s very serious.”


REACTING to yesterday’s back page story, when Down County Board chairman Sean Rooney denied reports that a county official had been involved in a row with Eamonn Burns in Ennis and also that the county board had endorsed a tweet calling for Burns to step down, ‘Ryan Forrest’ tweeted: “The Down county board being scrutinised yet again in today's @irishnewssport Great to see, there is no more hiding place @OfficialDownGAA”

What a mess, and reversing the slide looks a huge task.

Plenty of counties across Ireland are experiencing difficult times, but the sense of disconnect between the Down County Board and some of its clubs has added another layer of gloom to an already troubled situation.


FEAR not, it doesn’t end there. ‘Tommy from Killyleagh’ doesn’t just want change at county board level, he think it’s time to just knock it on the head and for Down to pack up their five All-Irelands and head off into the sunset with the Kilkenny footballers.

The floor’s yours ‘Tommy’.

“It’s time Eamonn Burns packed his bags and walked because he’s bringing the county to an all-time low.

“He relegated Down last year and he’s relegating them this year probably to Division Three. Also, the players aren’t even wanting to play for him, they’re walking away, so something’s not right.

“Last year I rang after we were knocked out of the Championship I said about the team maybe being discontinued (and how I laughed then too ‘Tommy’).

“The way Down are playing at the minute I think maybe they should be discontinued for a while because it’s actually an embarrassment watching this team. It’s diabolical.”

There’s a job in the Trump administration for you yet ‘Tommy’, but I’m not sure reaching for the red and black button and nuking Down football is the best way to sort out the current issues.

It’s over the top to say Eamonn Burns relegated Down last year, especially considering he was appointed late and taking over a team shorn of many major players.

However, now in his second term, there’s no doubt patience is starting to wear thin and murmurings of discontent are growing louder.

After some decent performances in the Dr McKenna Cup, there was some hope that, had Down started the league well against Fermanagh, things would start moving in the right direction.

Instead, they were well beaten on the night, and well beaten again last weekend. Without a league or championship win since April 2015 and with little sign of one on the horizon, it is understandable that supporters are beginning to wonder where Down are going.


IF you’re growing tired of reading about Down, tough.

Only kidding, this is the last one before moving on to the more traditional Off The Fence footing of referee bias against northern teams and why Tyrone always get a raw deal.

For now though, this unnamed caller not only wants Down to stick at the county football for the craic, he agrees with our columnist Kevin Madden that Niall Madine should be wearing the number 14 jersey.

“He is one of the best full forwards in county Down and I would love to see him get a run out. I’ve been watching him now for quite a while and been very impressed with him,” said our caller.

“As regards the Kilcoo players, well… [sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line] there are whispers that Kilcoo players want to win the Ulster Club Championship this year instead of representing their county.

“They’re becoming quite loud whispers. I don’t want to mention any names but the dogs on the roads around Kilcoo could maybe help you.”

Fido? Benji? Bruno? Okay no names but sadly, as I’m not the Turner to the Kilcoo canine population’s Hooch, I’ll just have to offer my own opinion (the woof, the whole woof and nothing but the woof).

I’m not really sure why the Kilcoo players’ desire to win an Ulster Club Championship would have any bearing on whether or not they want to represent their county.

It wasn’t until the end of September that they beat Clonduff in the championship decider, by which time Down’s involvement in the All-Ireland series had long ended.

Having come close in recent years, it is only natural that the Magpies would hope to get over the line at provincial level.

But as for why there is not a big Kilcoo contingent on the Down panel, never mind the starting 15, that is a much wider issue than the club’s ambitions for the year. [BOLD]


OKAY folks, we’re back in the room.

That was some heavy stuff - I think we all need a lie down - but not before that promised return to familiar territory, ‘Eugene, Omagh’ wasn’t impressed with the RTE panel’s analysis of Tyrone’s draw with Dublin on League Sunday.

“It's a great pity Mickey Harte nor any of his management team will appear on RTE to talk up the Tyrone team,” said ‘Eugene’.

“Tyrone put in a great performance on Saturday night against Dublin. All the panel wanted to talk about was Tyrone's defensive set-up and of course to praise Dublin for their attacking ethos.

“Dublin are prepared to push defenders forward for the simple reason that when they lose possession they cynically take players out of the game high up the pitch. There were many examples of this on Saturday night.

“Philly McMahon wrestled Peter Harte to the ground to prevent him joining a Tyrone counter-attack. Tiernan McCann was taken out as he was about to break forward into the open space left vacant by the Dublin defence.

“Did the RTE panel mention this side of Dublin's play? Not on your Liffey!”


‘COUNTY Down man’ is so disenchanted with his own county’s fortunes that he has also taken to bemoaning the refereeing decisions that befell Tyrone at Croke Park on Saturday night.

This is a worrying trend ‘County Down man’.

“I was chatting to a Protestant friend and he started talking about Gaelic Games,” said ‘CDM’.

“He said he became interested [in GAA] because he admired the Tyrone teams with their style of play and the red hand on their jerseys.

“He also maintained there was two sets of rules, one for the northern teams and one for the Dublins and the Kerrys and them down south.

“He said ‘why would I encourage my family or any other Protestants to get involved in games that are totally biased against your own side of the house form the north?

“I wouldn’t blame him for saying that after watching the referring decisions at the weekend. He said that since 2008, every time Tyrone have gone to Croke Park, it was a refereeing decision that decided the outcome of the match.

“His assessment has been totally vindicated by the weekend’s referring decisions.”

No doubt there were a few dodgy ones at Croke Park but, if you really wanted to stoke up an anti-Ulster agenda argument, perhaps the meeting of Slaughtneil-St Vincent’s meeting earlier in the day would be a better shout as the crowd in Newry witnessed some bewildering calls.


AND finally, we’ll finish with Armagh’s disastrous defeat to Laois. Ahead by five with 13 minutes left, they looked home and hosed, but a gift of a penalty helped the O’Moore men battle back to land an unlikely victory.

‘John from Lurgan’ has a message for Orchard boss Kieran McGeeney.

He said: “Kieran McGeeney needs to look at the goalkeeping situation, there’s a constant issue with kick-outs.

“And I think we need a new captain next year, Aidan Forker gets involved in too many niggly things and getting sent off on Sunday, that’s not a captain’s role.

“Our defence was poor enough, and I think Jamie Clarke should be starting from the word go. That’s all for now, bye.”

In fairness to Aidan Forker, he showed all the attributes a captain should late in the first half and at times in the second to help drag Armagh back into a game they were struggling to get a foothold in.

By the time he was ordered from the field, the jig was up as the final whistle followed seconds later. However, Forker and McGeeney will both be aware of the need for the Maghery man to keep his cool when the red mist descends in future.

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