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Burns looking for winning formula as he recalls McGrath magic

By Declan Bogue

Published 04/06/2016

Pretty on the eye: Eamonn Burns is linked with dashing Down play
Pretty on the eye: Eamonn Burns is linked with dashing Down play

Despite how much things have changed in the world of gaelic games, Down manager Eamonn Burns insists that the relationships between him and his players are remarkably similar to what he enjoyed with Pete McGrath when they won two All-Irelands together in the '90s.

The reason for that is the compliment he pays the current Fermanagh manager when the schoolteacher says: "Peter McGrath was ahead of his time. He did a lot of video analysis with us too and at times we complained about it because he was doing too much, but I don't see an awful change in the relationship he would've had with us and what I have with them.

"The big change is the technology, you can get information out very quickly, you're not waiting on a phone call any more before the stuff's down the line and on a computer screen.

"I don't see a massive change in the way we manage and the way I was managed."

Burns is the third manager in three years over the Mourne men. While he might be intrinsically-linked with the dashing style that brought Down success in the past, he insists those ideals remain there.

When his mentor McGrath went to Fermanagh, he promised to bring something of the 'Down way' with him. After being filleted in his first two Championship games, his ideas changed utterly.

"You can't do that," Burns says of playing with that flamboyance. "You can't, because these teams put 13, 14 men behind the ball and you'd just be hung out to dry. You have to adapt to the way the game has evolved. For a lot of Down people that is a thorn in their side because they like to go and watch attractive football, but it is what it is.

"If you look at some of the top teams, they have found ways around this, to become more attractive, but definitely the game has changed a lot."

And to that end, he believes that most Ulster counties can learn from Tyrone's style.

"Tyrone are very organised and, reflecting on the Derry game, they all know their role, how they're supposed to function in the unit. They look very, very slick, They were keen to kick the ball long and paid dividends early on.

"You're always looking for bits and pieces here and there that you can bring into your own system and try it out and see would it work.

"Down like to play quick, fast open football but at times you can be stifled trying to get forward, 14 men behind the ball. It is what it is, we have to deal with it and we'll do our best to get on June 5 to get around it."

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