Sports

KERNAN: DOWN IN MIX

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

KERNAN: DOWN IN MIX thumbnailDOWN sweeper Kevin McKernan tidies up at Celtic Park on Sunday. BM1015

WHAT a difference a win makes, two is even better as Kevin McKernan explained following Sunday's win over Derry at Celtic Park.
McKernan played as sweeper and provider and was excellent in dictating the pace of play in what was a wonderful Down performance and the Sigerson Cup winner insisted he knew his team would come good.
The Mourne men sit in mid-table and victory against Kildare in Pairc Esler on Saturday should be enough to secure divisional status as well as put them in the hunt for promotion.
“The big focus coming into this game was knowing that the win last week gave us a good foothold and another win would put us right in the mix in the League," said McKernan.
“We have talked about for about a year and we knew it was in us. But a lot of things need to go your way and even in a couple of the defeats last year, it was a kick of ball from us beating Mayo in Mayo and Monaghan in Monaghan and people get lost in so many defeats.
“And that is hard to question but when you go to training and you see the talent we have, we will get stronger with Jerome [Johnston] coming on there and Paul Devlin coming on and Donal O'Hare not even here.
“I suppose Gerard McGovern will be a massive miss but Niall Donnelly came in and did a job. The options are strengthening and I think with games like that and wins is going to build confidence."
From no respectable wins in over a year to two in seven days is a huge turnaround and the Burren footballer said he feels fresh after not playing in the defeats against Clare and Fermanagh and he can draw on his experience as the team aims to keep improving.
“It is a massive step up again against Kildare but the Derry team put it up to them, so they are no world beaters and we will focus this week and prepare for them," said McKernan.
“I took two months to myself towards November and December and with the final year at university I had a lot on my plate, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Eamonn decided not to use me in the first two games.
“Then I had a heavy couple of weeks with the Sigerson as well. I am feeling good and it is great to be back in and I am just relieved for some of the younger lads - to start winning games for Down.
“Because I came into a team that was struggling ten years ago to get out of Division Three and we want to stay in Division Two and develop the team from there and we are coming up against Kildare and Galway - two massive games leading into Easter time."
McKernan was rightly unhappy with some of criticism his team faced in print and online and feels some of the stories and comments went too far while it wasn't used as motivation he admitted it was hard to take.
“When you go through a run of games like we had previous and a lot of harsh assessment in terms of media and men looking to create a massive story out of really nothing," said McKernan.
“But we hear about it and we carry that burden in training weekly into our lives and to get two wins like that and to hear lads with a positive ebb is nice to hear and that is what you play football for to get results. There is no one hurting more than the boys over the past 18 months.
“It wasn't used directly there are no photocopies of articles going up but you harness that. You lift the bag every night to go out to training and you question a lot of things and you ask what is in this for me?
“And if it is giving someone the opportunity to put men down through public domain like newspaper or social media and it is hard to avoid it and it's harsh stuff people are putting out there - but we go to play football for Down and it is a very privileged thing and a very enjoyable thing and when you get a few results it's made all the easier."

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