Sports

Burns: 'Yes Express'

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

DOWN manager Eamonn Burns is under no illusions and expects another titanic battle against rivals Monaghan in Saturday's last 12 clash in Croke Park, at 5pm.
The Mourne men should not feel under pressure to prove that their Ulster Championship semi-final win and performance was a flash in the pan and instead use it as currency that they can do it again.
Whether Glasdrumman's Connaire Harrison will rule over Monaghan's Drew Wylie again remains to be seen, although it is doubtful that Malachy O'Rourke will allow any Monaghan defenders to be isolated with a Down attacker.
The McGovern cousins, Gerard and Conaill, will likely be asked to curtail All-Star Conor McManus again and given Gerard's performance against Sean Cavanagh, Stefan Campbell and indeed McManus thus far in the Championship, it is something the Burren defender will relish.
Burns believes that there is more to come from his team than what we seen and with players such as the Johnston brothers Jerome and Ryan, their Kilcoo club-mate Darragh O'Hanlon, as well as Caolan Mooney, Shay Millar, Conor Maginn and Kevin McKernan, he wants his players to embrace their attacking nature and use the open spaces of Croke Park to their advantage.
“I think the key to the whole thing is that we perform. Clones is a big field too but I suppose the occasion got to some of them," said Burns.
“Croke Park is roughly the same size as Clones and the important thing is that they carry out the plan that has been set for them and that they adapt and that they read the situation and play the game that is in front of them.
“I have said to them all year that I can give them lots of ways how to get into any game but the most important thing for Down is that they express themselves and they go in hard, that they attack and when they get the ball into the scoring zones, they take the right options.
“The key to this game is to settle it down quickly and get into their stride and try to play our part to win the game."
Since Down's two-point win over Monaghan, the Farney men have won back-to-back games over Wexford before their hard fought narrow win over Stephen Poacher's inspired Carlow.
Down failed to perform during the second half of their Ulster Final defeat as Tyrone imposed their superiority. It was of course a sorry way to lose a final but it was by no means the first team the Red Hands slapped this season as Derry and Donegal can testify.
Drive through Kilcoo, Clonduff, Glenn, Mayobridge and parts of Newry and the red and black flags are out in force. Down's run to the Ulster Final has reinvigorated the county, pride has been restored and a visible plan put in place to bring the Mourne men back to the top table of the Championship.
The Down lads will have needed to shower their heads so to speak, over the Ulster Final defeat, so they are probably a full training session short of what Monaghan have done. O'Rourke's men have also had an extra 70-minutes of game time and with it the confidence of winning.
They need little motivation against the team that ended their Ulster ambition and Down manager Burns wants his team to stand up and be counted again.
“We just have to be aware of what is coming down the line at us. Monaghan will have reset and they will have something to prove after our last game with them and we need to face up to that," said Burns.
“We are looking forward to it but we know it is going to be tougher than what it was in the Athletic Grounds and we have to be very aware of that.
“The boys have come back from their disappointment of the Ulster Final and they have reset and refocused to take on Monaghan. They know that if they apply themselves well and get down to business they have an opportunity to go a wee bit further.
“We have a couple of sessions left before Saturday and we will focus on how we are going to approach the game."
While senior players such as McKernan, Maginn, Mark Poland and Donal O'Hare have all played with Down in Croke Park, the Mourne men can take confidence from the amount of players that have won silverware at the GAA Headquarters.
Michael Cunningham, Caolan Mooney, Niall McParland, Niall Donnelly and Johnston brothers Jerome and Ryan, have all won Hogan Cups with St Colman's College, where Down assistant manager Cathal Murray was manager.
Kevin McKernan and Conaill McGovern also won the Hogan Cup with Abbey CBS as well as the All-Ireland Minor title and Burns wants his players to grasp the opportunity to reach the last eight on Saturday.
Nobody within the county is saying the words bonus territory but it has't escaped even the Down manager's attention that they have somewhat overshot the runway of expectation.
“Yeah well it will be a different task altogether as obviously Croke Park is a fantastic place to play the game and another step for us along the line for progress," Burns said.
“It is a challenge that we are looking forward to and if we are being honest if you had of said at the start of the year that we are going to finish our summer in Croke Park, they would have grabbed it with two hands.
“So we now have the opportunity and we have to make the most of it."
Down expect to have a full panel of players to choose from including former captain Mark Poland, who received a nasty cut to his head in the Ulster Final.
Poland's return is a huge boost as while he hasn't started any games in the Championship this season, he brings a wealth of experience and the quality to control the tempo of the game by linking up attacks if needed or holding possession.
“Injuries are clearing up OK, we had few sat out of training on Tuesday with tiredness but they were back on Thursday," Burns said.
Obviously with the head injury there is protocol around that and Mark will be training this week but the break will have not done him any harm and he will definitely be available for Saturday."

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