Barry O'Hagan hopes returning players can help Down cause
DOWN could be strengthened by the return of some of their travelling contingent when the inter-county season gets up and running, hopes forward Barry O’Hagan.
Burren full-back Gerard McGovern is back in Ireland and playing with the St Mary’s after two years in Australia, while Bredagh’s Conor Francis cut short his travels Down Under as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Darragh O’Hanlon, a 2017 Irish News Ulster Allstar, is also on the comeback trail with Kilcoo after an injury-ravaged three years and his return at any stage would be a big boost to Paddy Tally.
“We had been talking on Zoom throughout lockdown but, before the first round of league games, Paddy said ‘listen boys, I wish you all the best, but you won’t hear from me until the 14th of September’,” said the Clonduff forward.
“To be fair to him he’s done that, he hasn’t contacted anyone, we’ve all been given our own GPS where he can keep an eye on our loads at training and matches, but he’s obviously been looking at the championship and I’m sure the door won’t be closed to anybody.
“Gerard McGovern back’s though I don’t know what his plans are, Conor Francis, Shay Millar could come back in next year, Niall Donnelly thank God is injury-free and by all accounts playing really well.
“[Caolan] Mooney’s probably in the same shape he was when he went to Collingwood and it’s great to have him back playing football, he’s an exceptional talent. Ryan Johnston’s playing really well for Kilcoo now, Shealan Johnston is up there with Liam Kerr in terms of youth, pace… for me personally, it might be bad news because I’m out on the half-forward line and I have Ryan, Shealan, Shay Millar, there’s competition going through the roof.
“But that’s what you want.”
O’Hagan bagged six points in the Mourne County’s last game before lockdown, against Offaly in Tullamore, and insists securing promotion to Division Two still remains the priority – regardless of the looming Championship date with Fermanagh.
“Down need to get into Division Two. Those League games are even more important than Ulster.
“If you’re in Division Two there’s more money at the gate for Down, which means better facilities for us, and you’re playing against better opposition. From the start of the year our main goal was to get promoted.
“When you see Kildare, Laois and Offaly closed down, that could easily happen to us down the line, you never know. Hopefully it all goes ahead for us because I wouldn’t want the work we’ve done this year with Down to be for nothing.”