GAA Football

Down manager Eamon Burns has 'good problems' ahead of Roscommon trip

Down manager Eamon Burns feels his squad is strengthening despite defeat by Cork. Pic Philip Walsh

DOWN boss Eamon Burns acknowledged he has “problems” ahead of the trip to Roscommon – but insisted they are “good problems” in terms of selection dilemmas.

The Mournemen slumped to a six-point home loss against Cork in round two of Division Two but Burns focussed on the positives of experienced players getting more game-time and also younger lads performing well.

Defender Darren O’Hagan started against the Rebels, having come off the bench against Louth in Drogheda the previous Sunday, with the same applying to attacker Donal O’Hare. Kevin McKernan and David McKibbin both made sub appearances again, while Ryan Johnston came into the fray for the final quarter

Burns was happy that last season’s skipper O’Hagan “played a full game…and played hard. He’d probably be the first one to tell you that he needs his fitness levels up a bit.”

“Ryan [Johnston] came on and got 10 minutes or so and played reasonably well. We’re trying to get boys back in contention and we’ve worked very hard to try and strengthen the squad.

“When you have a squad where people are coming off the bench and playing well, that creates its own problems because everyone wants to play - good problems. We just have to look at our line-up and see.”

Even an apparent downside, the late dismissal of full-forward Connaire Harrison, which rules him out of at least the trip to Roscommon, was turned into a positive of sorts by Burns:

“Connaire probably won’t be available so that will give someone else an opportunity to play in the full forward line.”

Despite the defeat to Cork, Burns was pleased with aspects of the performances of two younger defenders.

Castlewellan’s Colm Flanagan kept Colm O’Neill to one point from play and his manager is hopeful he can cement a place at corner-back:

“I thought he played very well. He played very well last week and he had a good McKenna Cup campaign.

“If he keeps making progress, that will hopefully release Darren [O’Hagan] to play further out the field. We’re pleased with Colm’s progress to date.”


Downpatrick’s Anthony Doherty impressively converted three frees, earning praise from his boss: “He was very, very good and he was good last week as well. He played well in the McKenna Cup. I watched a club game where he wasn’t overly impressive but he’s got the shooting boots on from dead ball situations.”

Overall, Down must be better in order to take anything from Roscommon, who drew their opener at home to Meath then beat Tipperary in Thurles.

However, Burns doesn’t believe that the loss to Cork will adversely affect Down’s chances of picking up a point or two: “I don’t think it’ll change the task that’s in front of us. They have three points now, so we have to go to Dr Hyde Park next week, dust ourselves down, roll our sleeves up and get ready for it.”

The Bryansford clubman will be seeking more attacking invention after Cork curtailed the space available to Down’s forwards:

“At times, they deployed two sweepers and they had obviously looked at the performance from the week previously and went to town on it and got their defence closed up.

“We found it difficult to get balls into the inside line, which then obviously limited the amount of scores we could get.

“I think with two sweepers it was very difficult to break down and we weren’t coming with enough pace out of defence to open it up either”.

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