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Down stars set to revolt as season falls apart

By Declan Bogue

Down's season threatens to go from bad to worse, with a number of players understood to be considering walking away from Eamonn Burns' squad after a number of walkouts last week.

The Mourne county are already in turmoil after losing their opening two National League fixtures to Fermanagh by nine points and Clare by six, sitting at the bottom of Division Two with an in-form Meath coming next to Newry.

After the Clare defeat a number of Kilcoo players did not travel home on the team bus and there is rumour that their actions could be met with punishment.

This follows last Thursday night's training session where a player walkout followed the announcement of the team to play in Ennis.

Turmoil within teams is not unusual, but mid-season heaves are indeed rare. However, it appears that the feeling within Down could be strong enough that stormy days lie ahead for the playing panel, management and county board.

Already, Damian Turley - brother of vice-captain Peter - Ryan Mallon and Gary McMahon have departed the county panel, citing dissatisfaction with the current management team.

It is understood that the Kilcoo contingent have already consulted with their club manager Paul McIver on whether or not to remain with the county, with McIver urging them to stay.

The defeat in Ennis also brought an embarrassing scene at half time with a county board member witnessed having an argument with members of the management team. Afterwards, while the Clare team went into a huddle on the pitch, the Down players could not be convinced to do the same, making for the dressing rooms.

The loss on Sunday brought it to 14 straight defeats for Down since they beat Laois in a Division Two fixture on April 5, 2015.

That win brought them back to the top flight under Jim McCorry. However, after that, they lost the Division Two league final to Roscommon before bowing out of the Ulster Championship with a narrow defeat to Derry, followed by a qualifiers exit to Wexford.

In the ensuing fall-out, the Down county executive recommended to the county board that McCorry and his management team should be voted out.

McCorry survived the vote by delegates, but felt as if he was not supported by the executive and subsequently departed.

Despite having a surplus of time to choose McCorry's successor, the Down county board only named Eamonn Burns as the new county manager on November 5, and he was appointed without having a backroom team in place.

Since that point, Down have gone through arguably their worst run of results, failing to win a single game in Division One last year and ending up with the worst scoring difference in all four leagues on -60. Their nearest challengers for that dubious honour was London on -41.

In the Ulster Championship, Down slumped to their heaviest-ever defeat in Clones at the hands of Monaghan.

There has also been disquiet among the panel at the treatment of respected players in the county.

Conor Laverty was not recalled after captaining Down in 2015.

Mark Poland, considered one of the better forwards in the province, has yet to make a matchday panel of 26.

Niall Madine has not been brought back despite showing good form for Queen's in the McKenna Cup.

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