Tuesday, 27 June 2017

BURNS’ NIGHT TO REMEMBER thumbnailDOWN boss Eamonn Burns gives a post-game briefing to his players following their fine semi-final victory over Monaghan on Saturday night.

THE pats on the back couldn't have been any harder or more heartfelt.

Down manager Eamonn Burns was still on the pitch in Armagh's Athletic Grounds at least a good ten minutes after the final whistle and got showered and battered in congratulations by jubilant fans.

There has been many occasions were it was Eamonn's task to lift the heads of players after a disappointing but not an unexpected defeat.

Saturday was not that day as he masterminded a stunning performance and inflicted a shock Ulster Championship defeat over Monaghan.

Down football was at a low ebb when he took over the role as Mourne manager less than two years ago and while he knew it would be a rocky journey he foreseen the ingredients of a good team and took the job that nobody wanted.

"Definitely I knew there was talent there because I managed at U21 level and I knew there was talent above them and I knew there was a lot of experience too," said Burns.

"Some of the experience I lost, they just walked away for different reasons and they are all very genuine reasons of family and work commitments and I respect that.

"And at the end of the day I thought if we could blend all that together then we would have a chance to do something.

"The first year was always going to be difficult and we were fired into Division One with the top teams in Ireland. Sure, there was going to be pain, everybody knows there is going to be pain, and you are not going to win every game you play when you are playing against the likes of Kerry, Dublin and these boys - they are quality sides.

"But we are taking small steps and we will see where it takes us." Burns told the Democrat last week that Down would take the game to Monaghan and on Saturday they powered past Monaghan with conviction and the Down manager hinted that the manner in which their chances were dismissed only added fuel to the fire.

"You see when you come into a game when you are 10-1 against to win it then you have to take the game to them to win it," Burns said.

"Everybody on TV last week forgot themselves and said it was Monaghan v Tyrone in the Ulster Final.

"You know Down are a very proud county and I didn't use that as a stick to motivate these boys at all.

"But everybody in that panel registered that and they came down here to do a job and they knew they were going to have to go right to the wire and they went right to the wire and they dug in, they were disciplined, controlled and when they got the ball they used it very well and they took their scores when they presented themselves." Burns expects Down to go into the Ulster Final on Sunday, July 16, as underdogs, but as we said in the Newry Democrat last week, it is a role that suits Down.

"We were going to be everyone's beaten docket here and we will go to the Ulster Final and we are going to be massive outsiders," said Burns.

"Tyrone are red hot favourites but Down will play Down football and we will see where that takes us."


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