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New bosses are gearing up to repeat playing success

By Declan Bogue

Published 02/01/2016

Winner: Damian Barton
Winner: Damian Barton

The hour is now upon three managers who get a chance to prove themselves with their native counties, having previously achieved All-Ireland glory.

It has almost gone unnoticed that the three managers who are taking charge for the first time this weekend have won All-Ireland honours in the past.

Damian Barton was a silky but steely forward with Derry in 1993 and takes charge of the Oak Leafers against Antrim on Sunday.

He has arrived into the job promising a shift in playing style, saying at his first press conference: "I think sometimes that you have a gut feeling that something you have always wanted to do comes through in time, and I wasn't going to pass it by.

"I have always coached players with a view to going to win matches," he said. "Players don't train to sit behind the ball and certainly my objective is to get the players to stick the ball in the net or over the bar. I think that's where you get the buzz from, the enjoyment of playing football, winning with some style.

"People used to talk about not caring as long as they won by a point, but hopefully those days are gone.

"My objective is to get players enjoying a type of football that they can express themselves. That's not being critical of what happened last year or the year before that."

He certainly has started to deliver on that promise, with every one of his six forward starters being recognised attackers.

Eamonn Burns, the type of midfielder who was able to control his patch and those around him when Down swept up two All-Ireland titles in 1991 and 1994, was appointed manager of the Mourne county a full 78 days after Jim McCorry fell on his own sword following the county board's recommendation that club delegates should vote him out of his post.

As a former player of Pete McGrath, he was interested to note that McGrath initially tried to introduce something of the Down style of football with Fermanagh, before realising that he needed to modernise, which they did to great effect in 2015.

With that in mind, Burns hinted at a more defensive Down in 2016, telling the Belfast Telegraph: "The way the game has evolved, it's built largely around the defence. You work from there, that's your starting position. It's important, yes, and it would have registered with us that you need your defensive systems in place."

"But, as Pete alluded to, Down played with a lot of flair. That team that I played on, it was ingrained in you and you liked to move the ball quickly, get the ball forward and play with the flair that Down teams are renowned for.

"However, at the same time, you must make sure that the back door is closed."

Elsewhere, PJ O'Mullan Jnr begins his spell in charge of Antrim, having delivered a club All-Ireland with Loughgiel in 2012. Liam Watson is back for his first start in four year and begins at full-forward against Laois in the Walsh Cup.

He promises that his panel will be updated at the end of the month; "The panel we have at the minute is taking us up to the end of January. There will be a few guys going in, a few guys going out."

Derry (V Antrim): E McNicholl, K McKaigue, D McBride J Morgan; L McGoldrick, C McKaigue, D Heavron; E Bradley, C McAtamney; C McFaul, J Kielt, E Lynn; E McGuckin, R Bell, S Heavron

Antrim (V Laois): G McTaggart; O McFadden, C McKinley, B McFall; CJ McGourty, N McAuley, S McCrory; K McKernan, Ciaran Johnston; S McAfee, M Dudley, E McCloskey; Conor Johnston, L Watson, C Clarke

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