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Conor Deegan maintains Mournemen still lack quality

By Declan Bogue

Published 06/06/2015

Conor Deegan
Conor Deegan

This time last year, double All-Ireland winner Conor Deegan caused something of a flap prior to Down's preliminary round opener against Tyrone when he suggested that survival in Division Two was as good as James McCartan could have hoped for with the players available, and he hadn't much hope for them in the Championship either.

Deegan has since moved home after 16 years spent living, playing and managing in Dublin.

He sees more Down football than ever and one incident in particular has left him considering the root cause of what may be the issue with the Mournemen.

Managing Aughlisnafin in Division Three, Deegan's side have won eight of their 10 games so far this season and are on course for promotion.

During a recent game against St Paul's, he was about to tend to an injured player when a member of the opposition told him to get off the pitch.

Deegan recalled: "I turned around to him and said, 'You look after yourself, don't worry about it'.

"And his response to me was, 'You don't know how to play football. All you do is kick it long into your full-forward line'.

"Now, he was only a young lad, but has the perception of football changed to such a degree that now if you kick the ball you are seen to be doing something wrong?

"I actually walked off the pitch smiling to myself, thinking, 'This game has changed to such an extent that I don't even know if I can deal with it anymore'."

The intermittent period has done nothing to convince Deegan that he was wrong last year, as Down seek to land a win over Derry in Celtic Park tomorrow, 21 years after he and his colleagues won what is held up as one of the greatest games of all-time between the sides, before they went on to capture Sam Maguire.

"I think the resources in Down at the moment are quite sparse," he commented.

"I don't think the county is set up to move forward in the proper manner, from top to bottom.

"I have only been back in Down for six or seven months now, but I have seen enough matches to realise that the standard of football isn't as good as it should be. The quality definitely isn't there."

Deegan also feels that Down should tap into their traditions and realise that a defensive system does not need to subjugate every other aspect of their play.

He explained: "I have moved with the times, but I do believe, and it is not just a romantic notion, that Down did play a certain style of football.

"Now, they try to play a running game and they are not big enough. They are a very small side and they struggle because of this."

He also expressed his fears for the future of the game, adding: "Football in general is losing its way. Gaelic was the only game in the world where it wasn't about containment.

"Unfortunately it has become exactly that. The horse has bolted, and it will probably never change."

Ulster SFC QF: Celtic Park, Sunday, 2.00pm

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