GAA Football

Pundit's criticism of Down is unfair says Mourne county skipper Darren O'Hagan

Down manager Paddy Tally gives some words of advice to forward Barry O'Hagan. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Andy Watters

DOWN skipper Darren O'Hagan says TV pundit Joe Brolly doesn't understand what it takes to be an inter-county football manager.

Brolly, formerly a box office analyst on RTE's Sunday Game, has been a vocal critic of Down's Paddy Tally this season and O'Hagan says the analysis of his manager's tactical approach is unfair because since the Derry All-Ireland winner has never pulled on a bainisteoir vest at county level himself.

“It does annoy you because Joe Brolly has never done it,” said O'Hagan.

“He has never gone in himself and managed a team so he probably doesn't understand the work that managers have to put into it. Paddy does.

“Paddy is not a Down man but the work that he puts into managing Down is serious. Basically he is at it 24/7 to see what he can do for Down football and that is massive.”

Tally's side achieved a key season objective earlier this month when they beat Laois by seven points to secure their Division Two status but they face a much tougher test on Sunday against a Donegal side that has featured in eight of the last nine Ulster finals.

O'Hagan says that Cavan's success in last year's Ulster Championship final is an inspiration to fellow underdogs Down as they prepare for the preliminary round duel at Pairc Esler. Declan Bonner's team were expected to complete a provincial three in-a-row last year but were shocked by an inspired Breffni outfit.

That upset shows what can be achieved if “you put your mind to it” says O'Hagan.

“Nobody expected Cavan to beat Donegal last year but it just shows you what you can do,” said the Clonduff clubman.

“Ulster was dominated by Tyrone and Armagh in the noughties and then Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan since then. There have been major upsets in that time too and Down were involved in a couple against Monaghan. You always have to believe you can win, there's no point pulling on the jersey if you don't.”

A rare home draw has been diluted by the fact that Sunday's Anglo-Celt opener will be played in front of a crowd of just 500 people after the NI Executive failed to agree an increase in spectator numbers at sporting events last week.

“I've been playing 12 years and this is the third home match we've had in that time,” said O'Hagan.

“It's a big disappointment that we won't get a big crowd out on Sunday but 500 is better than none. We played Laois and the 500 who were there made a massive difference compared to empty stands. “Some of the matches were weird to play in – you could hear players talking, you could hear managers calling on the sidelines, normally in League or Championship matches you don't get that. We're thankful we can get some people into the ground to cheer us on.”

Meanwhile, O'Hagan says it is time for the GAA to scrap the advanced mark rule which he says runs contrary to how defenders are taught to play Gaelic Football.

“It has to be taken away from the game,” he said.

“The mark in the middle of the field is okay, I'm happy enough with it because it does create a bit more attacking play where teams just don't let you just catch the ball and then bundle you up. I think the GAA needs to sit down at the end of the season and scrap it or ask the managers and players to see what they feel about it.”

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GAA Football