Winning run has restored confidence in Mourne ranks says O'Hagan
BACK-to-back wins over Westmeath and Laois have restored confidence in the Down ranks ahead of their Ulster Championship preliminary round clash against Donegal at Pairc Esler on June 27.
Mourne county skipper Darren O’Hagan was in the side that lost by 15 points against a rampant Tir Chonaill outfit in the 2018 Ulster semi-final so he knows what to expect.
“If we had been relegated it would have been very difficult for Paddy (Tally) and the boys to pick themselves up for Donegal coming here,” said the Clonduff man.
“But that’s two wins in-a-row. Donegal are coming and we’re very confident here. The confidence will be high in the camp and we have them on our own patch so we’re really looking forward to it.
“They’re ranked in the top four teams in Ireland so they have to be coming in as hot favourites. But we’re confident, the mood is good in the camp so we’ll prepare for them as best we can and we’ll see what happens in two weeks.”
Darren’s brother Barry settled into a rich groove of form as last Saturday evening’s game progressed. The talented forward finished with 1-9, a haul that included 1-5 on-the-trot in the second half.
“He was on song tonight and it is massive having free-taker like that, you need that at county level,” said O'Hagan.
“You look at the big teams throughout Ireland and the free-takers are hitting 95-96 per cent and you need that to win games. You need somebody scoring your frees because you are going to get six or seven of them a game.”
The majority of his brother’s frees resulted from desperate Laois tackling on Down’s pacey half-forward unit. Liam Kerr and Caolan Mooney were outstanding in the second half and their runs drew foul after foul from the O’Moore defence.
“Pierce Laverty, Daniel Guinness, Caolan Mooney… we weren’t driving enough in the first half and Paddy said: ‘Here lads, you have the freedom, go…’ and we went at Laois and they couldn’t handle Pierce or Daniel and especially Mooney in the second half. It is all well and good having that pace but you have to use it on the pitch and the lads did in the second half and it paid dividends," said the Down skipper.