Down build-up hurt by club games: Burns
Down boss Eamonn Burns admits to a sense of frustration as he painstakingly plots his strategy in advance of his team's all-important Ulster Championship quarter-final against neighbours and deadly rivals Armagh.
Domestic bliss in a sporting sense certainly does not prevail within the Mourne management set-up just now as they survey a landscape that is dotted with too many club fixtures.
Burns, relieved to see his side remain in Division Two, reveals that the fixtures programme within the county is impacting on his championship preparations.
"I have to say I am disappointed to see fixtures being re-scheduled after dates have been agreed which has led to our training sessions having to be changed on occasions," says two-time All-Ireland winner Burns.
"This is hampering our preparations. I would like to see the way cleared for a more structured build-up to the game rather than have to compete, as it were, with club games.
"I accept that club players are entitled to their share of action but when dates are agreed in advance and then changed to suit certain situations this leads to problems.
"Obviously everyone in Down wants to see the county team do well but the proper platform for preparations for this huge game against Armagh has to be established and adhered to."
Down have not won the Ulster title since 1994, the year in which they also won their last All-Ireland, and as someone who has shared in success at the highest level, the modest and unassuming Burns now sees in his managerial role how much it means to his players to achieve success.
"We have a lot of boys in there who have given Down great service - the likes of Brendan McArdle, Kevin McKernan, Conor Maginn, Peter Turley, Aidan Carr, Daragh O'Hanlon and Darren O'Hagan among others - and they are massively keen to see Down regain credibility on the championship stage," points out Burns, ahead of the June 4 showdown in Newry.
"Then you look at the effort newer players like Joe Murphy, Alan Davidson, Shay Millar and others are putting into their training and you would just love to see them get every chance to blossom."
Burns has been provided with more food for thought following his team's concession of five goals in a challenge game against Meath on Sunday.
It is anticipated that several defenders who started in that game will be on duty against Armagh and Burns is hoping that his rearguard will not err on the side of generosity to such an extent in the Championship opener next month.