Connaire Harrison still adapting to Down's new style
DOWN forward Connaire Harrison admitted that their failure to win promotion on Sunday was the result of a succession of poor starts catching up on them.
While they came into a home game against Louth having won five on the bounce, they stood on the edge of the cliff against Sligo, Westmeath and Carlow. Someone was bound to push them over eventually.
That someone was Louth, who won in Newry for the first time since 1996 thanks to a polished display.
The Mournemen played the first half with a gale at their backs but didn’t score after the ninth minute, and went 46 minutes of playing time in total without raising a flag. By the time they broke the run, they were 0-9 to 0-3 down.
“The first half performance, we know ourselves, it’s far from good enough. We spoke about it at other games, we’ve spoken about it today again, it’s cost us,” said the softly-spoken Harrison afterwards.
“We know as well as anybody it’s tough down here but we’ve left a lot of games til the death and your luck’s going to run out sometime when you’re leaving yourself too much to do, and unfortunately that’s happened today.
“It’s hard to put your finger on [what caused the poor starts]. Today, we weren’t composed enough in the first half with the breeze, where they did enough in the second half with it to get them over the line.
“There was a gale-force wind and we only contributed three points with it at our backs.
“You need to be smart with the ball. A lot of them were pot-shots, we were shooting and not even looking at the goalposts, relying on the wind to take the ball over the bar.
“It’s not going to do it for you in games like this and definitely not going to do it come championship time, so there’s a lot to work on.”
Harrison missed the early part of the season due to his honeymoon and admits it’s been harder than he imagined to regain the sharpness.
Even though a foot infection had ruled him out of starting on Sunday, he looked much closer to his best self when he came off the bench in the second half.
“Everything takes time. I maybe expected to come back in and pick up where everybody else had been but those boys were going two-and-a-half months ahead of me and it wasn’t as easy to do that.
“I had a fair bit to work on. I’m getting there gradually, hopefully I’ll get the head down over the next few weeks and be ready come championship time.”
Having been a star turn for Down the last two seasons, earning himself an Allstar nomination in 2017, Harrison has arguably had more adjusting to do than anyone to their new style of play.
In the limited time that he has played, his role as the target-man at full-forward has been altered. Down aren’t looking to kick the ball early and instead expecting Harrison and Donal O’Hare to come on the loop and finish moves off. It’s a totally different way of playing.
“I don’t mind it. It’s like everything else, you have to adapt to the teams you’re playing against as well.
“We’ve been playing a lot of teams this year that have just put everybody behind the ball, and the only way to counter that is getting everybody back into position when the ball breaks down because then they just go in a wave.
“It’s difficult at times. Any forward would probably be happy enough coming on the loop, ball popped off and shooting.
“It does take a bit of adjusting though, especially when you’re used the previous year or two the ball coming left, right and centre, coming in diagonal and whatever, and that’s not the case at the minute.
“You just have to adapt to it. That’s just the way games have gone in this division. Maybe championship will be different.”