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Burns eyeing a double boost in Down's survival battle

By John Campbell

Down manager Eamonn Burns is hoping for a dual boost as his side prepare to take on Galway in what will be a must-win Allianz Football League tie at Pairc Esler, Newry on Sunday.

Burns, whose team are once again confronted by relegation worries, is keeping his fingers crossed that skipper Darren O'Hagan will be fit for duty as well as anticipating that the Mourne faithful will come out in much better numbers to get behind their side.

O'Hagan limped off in the closing stages of Saturday night's game against Kildare and his possible loss to the defence would be huge as Down seek to secure their place in Division Two for another year.

Clonduff clubman O'Hagan has been superbly consistent since donning the captain's armband and both his defensive and leadership qualities will be needed against a Galway side which will arrive in Newry fresh from their handsome 5-15 to 2-15 win over relegation-threatened Derry.

Alan Davidson, who has been missing from the side lately because of injury, was introduced as a substitute in the 54th minute against Kildare but was shown a black card by referee Niall Cullen just eight minutes later.

Burns is now expected to give the former Ballymena United player more game time against Galway, who are in second place in the table with seven points.

Following Sunday's game against the Tribesman, Down face the long haul to Cork on Sunday week where another two points will be required to ensure safety.

Burns, conscious that his side are under pressure now that the momentum gained through the back-to-back wins over Meath and Derry has been halted, accepts that they confront a difficult conclusion to the league.

"I thought we faced up to the challenge of Kildare quite well but they got the scores to win the game," observed Burns. "Now we have two big games against Galway and Cork ahead of us."

The rather muted atmosphere when only 1,700 people came through the turnstiles for the game against the Lily Whites disappointed Down officials, who had thought that the wins over Meath and Derry might have brought the fans out in much bigger numbers.

County board chairman Sean Rooney is now urging supporters to get behind the side in the next two games.

"I thought the team put in an honest effort against Kildare. As far as I am aware, Darren O'Hagan did not suffer any break, just bad bruising and hopefully he will be fit to face Galway. It would be great to see Pairc Esler house a big crowd for this vital match," said Rooney.

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