GAA Football

Down are better than last year: Mourne ace Caolan Mooney

Caolan Mooney is still scratching his head after Down suffered relegation to Division Three this season

CAOLAN Mooney insists the Down footballers are in better shape this year than last season – even though they were condemned to Division Three at the end of their League season.

The 25-year-old Rostrover flyer is hoping the Mournemen turn up to face Ulster Championship opponents Antrim on Saturday night with their shooting boots on.

“Comparing this year to last year we actually played a lot better this year and we got relegated,” he said.

“We didn’t take our chances. Against Clare, I think we had 34 shots or something and we didn’t score enough [1-10]. It was the same with Cavan – we had four one-on-ones and we sort of left that game behind us as well.

“We went down but you’re looking at it and thinking I don’t know how we went down. The Meath game was the only one where we were really outplayed. We probably deserved to stay up but if you don’t take your chances and put scores on the board, then that’s what happens.

“Last year we blew hot and cold during the League whereas this year we’ve probably been more consistent as a team but it’s just the final part of it that has let us down.”

Mooney acknowledged he was as guilty as any of his team-mates in missing the target during Down’s NFL campaign.

“I was taking too many shots for the return I was getting, so I was told to lay the ball off a bit more. But sometimes you get up the field quicker than other players, but I’m happy with my form. I probably had a better League this year than I did last year and I actually didn’t get injured, which is a plus, and I’ve had more football under me.”

Even though Down averaged just over 14 points per game in Division Two – scoring five goals – they still possess a feared forward line.

Connaire Harrison, Donal O’Hare, Ryan Johnston, Shay Millar and Conor Maginn bring plenty of guile to the table, with most eyes on Harrison who emerged as one of the best players in last year's Ulster Championship.

“If you take your eyes off him he’ll do damage,” said Mooney of the Glasdrumman man's attacking threat.

“He had an interrupted season with the red card (against Cork) but Harrison is Harrison. He can just turn it on. I hope he’s right in what he says that he’s a summer man. He’s one of the leaders in the team and we’ll just try and supply him with the ball and let him do the rest.”

Mooney won’t be taking provincial outsiders Antrim lightly ahead of Saturday’s showdown in Newry and recalls the chances the Saffrons missed against Donegal last year and how they were arguably the better side heading in at half-time in Ballybofey.

“You can’t underestimate anyone in Ulster. In the first half against Donegal last year Antrim had a couple of goal chances and didn’t take them.

“Everyone is saying we’re going into the game as favourites but we have to keep doing what we’re doing, keep chipping away, and hopefully the final product will come through.”

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