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Down boss tight-lipped on future after Monaghan kick-start their season

 

By Declan Bogue

Eamonn Burns offered no certainty that he would continue in his role as Down manager in 2018 when asked the question after defeat to Monaghan.

"I don't know. I will have to take stock of the whole thing and see where I am," the Bryansford man answered.

"There are a lot of people I would like to speak to, family and friends. Obviously there is the county board and other people around me who I would hold dear to me and I would seek their advice at times.

"There is plenty of work to be done here and I think there is a panel of players coming together."

He then reflected on the journey of the last two years, with Down failing to win a single game in his first year in charge, and the rapid improvement since that brought them to an Ulster final.

"When you are trying to develop a panel from where we started two years ago, when things were difficult and players for very genuine reasons were opting out and you were bringing in fellas who weren't experienced at this level even during league campaigns, that was a very difficult start.

"Your back was to the wall a bit. You really have to draw breath and make sure in your own mind that you are going in the right direction," he continued. "We did that and we took a huge amount of flak, a huge amount of unfair flak. But we faced it up this year. We improved in all areas both on and off the field.

"Obviously there is still a lot of work to be done, there is a lot of talent in county Down that we need to get into training panels and get a look at them."

He added: "I think we have come a huge distance down the road from where we were last year. Coming into the job I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

"As I said many times, losing a huge amount of your players from the year before, especially the senior players, the boys who have been there before, it is very difficult to replace experienced men."

Experienced men is something Malachy O'Rourke has no shortage of.

Monaghan have turned their season around from the shock defeat in the Ulster semi-final and here they gathered only their second championship win in Croke Park since 1930.

They have another big one to come on Saturday, but O'Rourke wasn't prepared to admit what was on their wish list at the start of the year.

"We were disappointed to lose the Ulster semi-final. We had to take a different route and even in that, we've never looked too far ahead.

"If we took each game on its own merit and did well enough to get through you eventually would end up in a quarter-final.

"That's where we are now, it's going to be a massive jump up in quality and everything else."

Still, he knows that next week he might not be able to risk not having a presence such as Conor McCarthy on the pitch for the majority of the match, such was his performance here.

He added: "We haven't much time to prepare. We've a week, but we do feel we haven't hit our peak form yet. We feel there's more quality there than we're showing at the minute but we're also under no illusions that next week will be a very tough game and we have to be up to speed.

"I do think the panel is probably stronger than at any other time. Competition for places is strong in the 26, never mind the 15, and we can put players in, takes players off - we're pleased with the quality we have."

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