Eamonn Burns was 'very unlucky' in his last year says Down coach Gearoid Adams
AS Eamonn Burns made for the exit door after three rollercoaster seasons in charge of Down, coach Gearoid Adams said he was exceptionally unlucky in his final year.
Down were relegated to Division Three and suffered back-to-back Championship defeats to Donegal and Cavan.
But sift through a disappointing season and Adams believes Burns deserved to go out on a higher note.
Down paid the ultimate price for their poor conversion rate in Division Two – particularly in games against Clare, Cork and Cavan.
After dismissing Antrim with the minimum of fuss in their opening Ulster Championship encounter they ran into eventual provincial champions Donegal in the semi-finals and were well beaten.
More woe awaited the Down men in their All-Ireland Qualifier against Cavan at Brewster Park on June 23.
“I think Eamonn was very unlucky,” said Adams, who made a favourable impact with Down in his debut season.
“I think there were games we were in control and we probably didn’t finish some teams off.
“The Cavan game summed everything up. We were sitting very comfortable and in complete control and 30 seconds later there were black cards and red cards and men coming off with injury – and it wasn’t your number 25 or 26, it was our main players.
“Every manager needs a bit of luck and Eamonn didn’t get any.”
Kevin McKernan and Connaire Harrison suffered black cards before half-time against Cavan and Ryan Johnston was red-carded on 49 minutes. To compound their problems, Donal O’Hare failed a fitness test, and Caolan Mooney was forced out of the game just after half-time.
“Anything that could go wrong did go wrong against Cavan, and we still should have won the game,” insisted Adams.
“Eamonn told us that he had made up his mind and he wasn’t going back next season.”
After stepping away from the Antrim managerial post last year, Burns made contact with Adams to join his backroom team for 2018.
“Eamonn has his own way,” said Adams. “Behind closed doors, he’s very straight, he knows the game and put a lot of thought into his match-ups and tactics.
“You take away the Donegal game, every other game that Down played, they were good enough to win the games. It was just that wee margin of error wasn’t with us.
“I enjoyed the year with Down. It went very quickly. The McKenna Cup, the National League and the Championship flew by. It would have been nice to get another game in the back door but it wasn’t to be.
“Against Cavan, we lost Kevin McKernan, Connaire Harrison, RJ [Ryan Johnston] and Caolan Mooney [injured] didn’t finish the game, and Donal O’Hare was injured before the game. So that’s the core of your team.
“The good thing about that day was a lot of boys who came off the bench, who didn’t get much game-time all year, did very well, so it shows the strength in depth that’s there.”
Adams is currently helping his club St John’s and plans to take some time out to decide on his next move in coaching or management.
Whoever takes over, Adams believes, the raw materials are in Down to be a success.
“Division Two is a very hard League. Whoever comes in will see getting out of Division Three as a priority. When you win a few games it brings momentum ahead of the Championship. But it took Armagh a while to get out of Division Three, and they had the quality to do so.
“Down definitely have the quality and the players in depth; it’s probably trying to get all the quality in the county playing for Down. The vast majority were there this year but, like every county, there are always a few others you could bring in.
“I had an idea of what the talent was like in Down as I spent a year in Clonduff. Skill-wise, Down are as good as anybody but the most important thing that was missing from Down this year was that bit of luck.”