Down enlist help of former Dublin star Ryan O'Dwyer
DOWN have enlisted the help of former Dublin forward Ryan O’Dwyer as they prepare for a “big step up” once competitive action resumes next month.
Tipperary native O’Dwyer helped the Dubs land the 2012 National Hurling League crown as well as a first Leinster title since 1961 with victory over Galway in 2013 before calling time on his inter-county career in 2018.
The Ardsmen have been drawn alongside Meath and Kerry in Group B of the McDonagh Cup, with the Kingdom – beaten by Antrim in last year’s McDonagh Cup final – and Carlow also among the counties with big ambitions in Division 2A.
But boss Ronan Sheehan is confident O’Dwyer’s top level know-how can bring something different as Down get ready for the challenges ahead.
“We just felt that, with the step up, bringing in somebody with the experience of playing and competing at a higher level would be really useful to the lads,” he said.
“We’re looking at a big step up. Like everything else, when you make that step up, you’re stepping up a level of game management, of movement, and in that sense Ryan can bring real value.
“Sometimes it’s just good as well to get a different voice in. Myself, Mick [Blair], Niall [Coulter], we’ve had these boys for a couple of years and we’ve also had a lot of them from underage, so they’re listening to us for a long while.
“A new voice and a voice that has experience at the top level can really help.”
O’Dwyer’s physicality and outstanding aerial ability set him apart when he was in his pomp with the Dubs, and Sheehan hopes those traits – as well as the 34-year-old’s personality - can rub off on his panel.
“If you look at Down teams in general over the last number of years, we haven’t been as aerially dominant as we would like to be. Playing against the likes of Kerry and Carlow who are strong in the air will bring its own challenges, so bringing Ryan in to help improve on that will be massive.
“His ability to tackle with his body was outstanding and again that is something we’d be hoping can rub off on the lads through his coaching, and then the experience of playing in a top level team in recent times when movement in the forward line has been so critical.
“When you bring somebody in, you’re very conscious of whether they will fit with the group, but anybody who watched his episode of Laochra Gael will have seen his honesty and integrity. After watching that I was more convinced than ever that he was the man for us.”