Down on target to shoot way to safety, says Burns
Down manager Eamonn Burns always knew that travelling to face Cavan in Division Two of the Allianz Football League would be an arduous test.
But former All-Ireland winner Burns could hardly have envisaged the backdrop against which the two teams will lock horns in Breffni Park in tomorrow night's crucial showdown (7pm).
While hosts Cavan, now beginning to thrive under the astute guidance of Mattie McGleenan, are about to enter the fray suitably buoyed by an unexpected away win over Cork in their most recent outing, Down, in contrast, go into action seeking to take remedial action following an embarrassing series of wides in their home match against Clare on Sunday week last.
It was after stunning fancied Roscommon on their own patch that Down were expected to get the better of the Banner county, but instead they failed once again to maximise home advantage in falling by 1-12 to 1-10.
Now Burns is hoping that his attack, in which Connaire Harrison is expected to get game time having served a two-match suspension, will catch fire against a Cavan outfit that have suddenly thrust themselves into contention for promotion.
The Down boss, though, accepts that because they have been making life hard for themselves recently - their loss to Clare followed an earlier home reversal against Cork - his team face an exceptionally tough task against a buoyant Cavan.
"We have to make more of our scoring opportunities count if we are to have any chance of winning," maintains Burns. "But it's going to be a tough task. Cavan will have taken further heart from their win over Cork and will be keen to impress at home.
"Cavan are going well, they're top of the division and they're playing at home, so we know we're going to have to go down there and improve on a whole lot of areas.
"It's consistency you want, because consistency will breed confidence."
The return of Harrison offers Burns an extra option in attack. Donal O'Hare has regained his scoring touch while Anthony Doherty has joined Darragh O'Hanlon in sharing the free-taking duties.
The number of chances that Down spurned from play against Clare remains a source of concern to Burns who, while accepting that his team's approach play can be good, is conscious that a repetition of such profligacy tomorrow night could have serious repercussions for the county.
"We want to avoid getting drawn into an ongoing relegation battle," states Burns.
"There are a few teams there which are not out of trouble yet and a win would be very timely for us in particular in this regard."
Caolan Mooney, Colm Flanagan, Darren O'Hagan and Shay Millar are among other Down players who have been showing good form, but tomorrow night Burns will be looking for a big team performance.
They face two further potentially tricky assignments in the league, a home game against Tipperary and an away clash with Meath.
Tipperary are expected to overcome Louth this weekend and thus strengthen their claims for promotion, while Meath, in contrast, are battling desperately to remain in Division Two having garnered just three points from four games.
No matter how you look at it, though, the closing segment of the league will constitute a hazardous journey for the Mourne county.
Meanwhile, Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney is hoping that his side can step up their quest for promotion to Division Two by beating a struggling Derry outfit at the Athletic Grounds tomorrow night (7pm).
The Orchard county remain unbeaten after four games but McGeeney is conscious that Fermanagh also have a strong scent of promotion in their nostrils.
McGeeney blooded some new players in the recent defeat of Offaly at Tullamore but he will place his faith in a more experienced line-up tomorrow night.
Last year Armagh missed out on promotion in their last league game when Michael Quinlivan scored three goals as Tipperary heaped a shock defeat on the Orchard county, and the lesson from that remains indelibly imprinted on the Armagh psyche.