GAA Football

Down skipper O'Hagan doesn't expect any more favours from Carlow

"It’s about winning games and having that winning mentality is hard to beat," says Down captain Darren O’Hagan. Picture Mark Marlow
Andy Watters

CARLOW assistant-manager Stephen Poacher was linked with a switch to his native Down last summer but he was quick to give his support to Paddy Tally who was appointed in August.

Tally has steered the side to four victories on-the-trot and Poacher's Barrowsiders did Down a massive favour last Saturday night by beating promotion-chasing rivals Louth and leaving the Mournemen with a two-point lead at the top of Division Three.

Down's eight-point win over Offaly convinced their manager John Maughan that the Ulstermen were on their way back to Division Two.

“Down shouldn't be in Division Three and they're going back up,” he said.

“They're a good side with lots of talented players.”

But Down skipper Darren O'Hagan is well aware that the job isn't done yet. Another Down win could seal promotion but O'Hagan doesn't expect any favours from Ballyholland clubman Poacher in Carlow on March 16.

“We are just focussing on ourselves,” said O'Hagan, whose wife Paula captained the Clonduff camogs to the All-Ireland intermediate title last Sunday.

“Carlow won, good enough, it leaves us top but we still have them next and Louth after that.

“There's going to be talk about it (Poacher's Down links), the media will talk about it, but we'll let them talk away and concentrate on our own changingroom and the way we're playing.

“We just look at the next match, that's all you do, keep focussed, keep the changing room settled and look to get another two points against Carlow. It's about winning games and having that winning mentality is hard to beat.”

O'Hagan says the influx of young players brought in by Tally has encouraged intense competition within the squad and the introduction of Cory Quinn turned out to be inspired on Saturday night. Superbly fit and totally committed to the Down cause, the Clonduff clubman leads the youngsters by example.

“It's our set-up, it's our gameplan and it's what you have to do,” he said.

“You have to work for the team, it's not an individual game, it's a team game and you have to put in a shift.

“Paddy is pretty ruthless and there are plenty of boys coming off the bench, there's new boys coming off the bench every week and making an impact so you have to play well to keep your place in this team.

“It was massive for Cory to come in off the bench after about 20 minutes and bag two goals.

“When he was on the ball he was very good for us, very smart and calm on the ball too. There were boys on last week – Barry (O'Hagan), Connaire (Harrison) and they didn't get a minute so it just shows you that there is strength-in-depth in our panel.”

He added: “We can play both styles. We had to play the kicking games (with the wind) and the running game (into it) and probably in the first half our decision-making was poor, or the execution of the pass was poor, than anything else.

“We knew at half-time that we had to work harder because our backs were against the wall, we only had a two-point lead which wasn't good enough.”

Inspired by Quinn's double, the Mournemen attacked in waves during the second half as Offaly's challenge faded. O'Hagan hopes the side takes up from where they left off when the ball is thrown in in Carlow.

“At half-time we weren't happy at all,” he said, reflecting on Saturday night's win.

“With a strong gale behind us we thought we should have been further ahead but we weren't. It probably wasn't because we were playing poorly, it was more our decision-making on the ball and we didn't get enough scores on the board, we were forcing shots and forcing things.

“The second half we were very good, we were in control, we were better set up and took the right options in front of the nets.

“We carried the ball better and didn't panic and went at the right times.”

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