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Paul Rooney warns fans to expect caution

By John Campbell

There is a growing belief that the swashbuckling attacking policy which highlighted numerous high-profile games in the recent Allianz League may be sacrificed to some extent when the Ulster Championship begins next week-end.

High-scoring contests were by and large the order of the day in the league with teams placing the emphasis on bidding to outgun opponents on the scoreboard rather than retreat into a defensive shell for narrow victories.

But that could change from Sunday onwards, according to Down PRO Paul Rooney, who believes that his team's preliminary joust with Tyrone could set the benchmark for the competition.

"I have spoken with a number of officials from other counties and while the players, managers and fans largely enjoyed the league, it could be a different story now in the championship," states Rooney.

"There will be a greater awareness that the concession of a goal or goals could very much influence the outcome of a game and I think that we can expect to see teams become more preoccupied with defensive mechanisms."

Rooney, like everyone else in Down keen to see a 20-year title famine ended, also spells out a warning in relation to the possible return of lateral passing.

This particular practice was eschewed by several teams in the league as they opted for a direct approach but the championship generally triggers safety-first procedures.

"Obviously lateral passing is seen as a turn-off but in the championship in particular possession is everything," insists Rooney. "I honestly believe that sometimes a player might be afraid to attempt to deliver what may be seen as a slightly more ambitions pass because if it does not reach its intended target then his team's statistician seated will chalk this down as a misplaced pass."

Down manager James McCartan and his opposite number Mickey Harte are both advocates of attack but even they must take on board defensive requirements.

"Both teams have conceded big scores and neither manager will want a repeat. Obviously every team would favour getting the ball quickly into their front men but should these deliveries fall short, then the teams know that they will be very vulnerable to counter-attacks," stresses Rooney.

"I think it will be a case of he who dares, wins."

Belfast Telegraph

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