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Down stars in dark over Coulter's future

By Declan Bogue

Considering they only had seven shots at goal from play over the course of 70 minutes, along with a suspension looming for Donal O'Hare, Down badly need Benny Coulter to pull the red and black jersey back on.

However, Mourne defender Darren O'Hagan admits the players are very much unaware of Coulter's intentions at present.

"I wouldn't have a clue. Nobody knows. That's between the management and him," the Clonduff man stated.

"I know he'd work commitments in January. We're just working with whatever players are at training, and that's it, trying to move forward."

Down were handed a harsh lesson on Saturday night as Donegal powered to their first away win in the National League since 2009 by 17 points.

What made their evening utterly miserable came with the late sending-off of their most prolific forward O'Hare, for a striking offence on Eamonn McGee, which - if not appealed - incurs a one-game suspension.

O'Hagan pointed to the lack of experience in the Down ranks as the defining factor in the defeat.

"Our training has been as good as any other year. We're probably doing the same as Donegal but they had that bit more experience and better players on the night. They've been making the last eight over the last four or five years whereas Down haven't," he said, before offering his manager Eamonn Burns sympathy.

"We're only going to improve and he has to be given time. It's not just going to click overnight; we're not going to turn into Championship winners overnight. It takes time.

"It's hard to take. It's going to be a tough league for us but hopefully we'll gain a lot of experience from it by playing the big teams.

"It's where you want to be and you can always improve."

With a growing injury list, O'Hagan believes Burns can take some solace as he also blooded a number of youngsters such as Malachy Magee, Michael Hughes and Joe Murphy.

"Ryan Johnston went off, Jerome Johnston's not back yet and Conor Maginn and Paul Devlin weren't playing. That's four or five forwards, key players, and we were probably lacking a bit up front. Donegal set up so well and we didn't know how to get past them," he said.

"But those players should all be back in after the break and that should help us."

Down now head to Clones on Sunday to meet Ulster champions Monaghan, who were bolstered by a late scoring flurry to beat Roscommon.

While they will also be facing them in the Ulster Championship, their contrasting fortunes over the weekend now gives this fixture added significance.

"We were probably looking at Donegal and Monaghan to try and take some points, so we have to be looking at the Monaghan game to get a performance out of it and show that we can do something in Ulster, hopefully," stated O'Hagan.

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