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Burns out to build after easing pressure

By John Campbell

The knives that were out for Down manager Eamonn Burns have been returned to their sheaths, the barbs have become rather less caustic and a renewed trickle of goodwill is beginning to flow through the beleaguered county.

One swallow does not make a summer but last weekend's win over Meath in Division Two of the Allianz Football League has rekindled the hope that the Mournemen can at least retain their current status.

In this respect, Burns has been handed a welcome bonus in the build-up to Sunday's crucial clash with Derry at Owenbeg.

He now finds himself confronted by interesting selection options as his side seek to haul themselves away from relegation worries.

Four of Down's most experienced players - Brendan McArdle, Jerome Johnston, Mark Poland and Paul Devlin - were introduced as substitutes against Meath and are now pushing for starting places against Derry.

This has served to strengthen competition for places just as Down prepare for a demanding second half of their league itinerary.

Following Sunday's game, they are due to meet Kildare (h), Galway (h) and Cork (a) and given the overall strength of this opposition, Burns is particularly keen to see his side take something from their trip to Owenbeg.

A scoring difference of -13 sees Down currently rooted to the bottom of the Division Two table yet if they were to beat Derry and other results proved favourable from their perspective, they could potentially find themselves in joint second place.

"Thin margins can determine a team's headway in Division Two. The players are working very hard and they are obviously keen to make progress," said Burns. "I don't think the commitment within the squad can be questioned."

Alan Davidson, who has been Down's primary source of scores recently, missed the win over Meath but the fact that nine players scored is particularly pleasing to Burns.

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