Barry O'Hagan did family proud in Down win says injured brother Darren
THE O’Hagan family in Clonduff must have been particularly delighted. For several seasons, defender Darren has been Down’s standard-bearer and go-to man but after knee and hip injuries ruled him out of Sunday’s Ulster Championship quarter-final against Fermanagh, younger brother Barry stepped up and did them proud at Brewster Park.
The Mournemen swept their hosts aside to qualify for a winnable semi-final against Cavan with half-forward Barry scoring four points in the process.
“Aye he (Barry) played well,” said Darren, on pitchside.
“He popped up with a couple of good scores, he got a good one just before half-time and that settled the team down. It was a very good performance from Down in the second half and you could see it coming from about five minutes before half-time. You could see Down starting to settle and taking control of the game and then the third quarter was massive, they totally dominated it.”
Wisely, manager Paddy Tally has kept his injured team captain Darren in his set-up and while he understandably admits he’d rather be playing, O’Hagan is happy to do what he can to prolong what has been a successful 2020 for Down.
“Watching it isn’t easy,” he said.
“Every player wants to be out playing Ulster Championship football but it is what it is – injuries are part of sport and you just have to get on with it. I’ll do as much as I can for the team to support them and help them over the next couple of months but I’d rather be out there playing than standing on the sideline.
“Paddy wants me about the place so I’m happy to be here. I don’t have a major role but I try and get around and talk to the boys. It gets me out of the house and I’m still involved, so I’m happy as.”
O’Hagan has a procedure to fix cartilage damage in his knee and is now awaiting surgery on his hip. He hopes to be fully fit “in a couple of months” but until then he will do what he can to improve Down’s chances of extending this season.
“Before the whole lockdown started we were just starting to find our groove in the League, we were getting comfortable and then we had a great club championship in Down and I think that has helped the boys,” he said.
“They’re all coming in in great form off it and Paddy has had them for the last four weeks. He has settled them down and got his first team but there’s great competition for places with all the Kilcoo boys in. I think the competition for places is driving them all on.”
Down supporters will have been delighted with the performances of several young players at Brewster Park on Sunday. Barry O’Hagan was the Star Man but he had competition from fleet-footed wing-back Daniel Guinness while Pierce Laverty and Championship rookies Peter Fegan and full-back Paddy Murdock also impressed.
“Peter and Paddy had their first taste of Championship football for Down and they all did very well,” said O’Hagan.
“The second half was very pleasing the way we got to grips in midfield and started winning our own breaking ball.”
Next up is a Cavan side that had been written off after they were relegated from Division Two to Three (Down went in the opposite direction) but bounced back with a spectacular comeback win over heavily-fancied Monaghan and then accounted for Antrim.
“It’ll be a very tough game,” said O’Hagan.
“They’ve had two good wins – a great win over Monaghan and another one over Antrim but Down will be quietly confident going into it.”