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O'Hagan hoping to follow in his wife's footsteps

 

Glory aim: Darren O'Hagan is keen to take a lead from wife
Paula by leading Down to success
Glory aim: Darren O'Hagan is keen to take a lead from wife Paula by leading Down to success
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Down skipper Darren O'Hagan does not have to travel too far to seek inspiration as he prepares to lead his county into the Ulster senior football championship.

In fact, dynamic wing-back O'Hagan does not even have to leave his own house!

His wife Paula has already thrown down the gauntlet to him by recently landing what is perceived to be a unique camogie treble.

The PE teacher skippered Clonduff to the Down, Ulster and All-Ireland Intermediate Club titles and was voted Player of the Match in each of the finals.

No wonder O'Hagan grins ruefully as he ponders the standards which his energetic wife has set for him as he gears up to lead Down against Armagh in yet another championship derby clash between these neighbouring counties.

"The Clonduff camogie girls have given us some great days out lately, including that All-Ireland final at Croke Park, and they have raised the bar for us," muses O'Hagan.

"They have done Clonduff and Down proud and now it's up to us to try and follow their lead."

Two years ago Down confounded the critics by reaching the Ulster senior football championship final in which they were beaten by Tyrone (2-17 to 0-15) and having sampled the atmosphere of a packed St Tiernach's Park, Clones, in peak summer, O'Hagan confirms that his team is ready for another helping of this.

Yet of the side that came up short against Mickey Harte's men on that occasion Michael Cunningham, Conaill McGovern, Darragh O'Hanlon, Niall McParland, Niall Donnelly, Peter Turley and Shay Millar will be missing for various reasons for the forthcoming championship.

O'Hagan now finds himself surrounded by a plethora of new faces in a Mourne side that will bid to end a 25-year provincial title famine.

Rory Burns, Ruairi Wells, Colm Flanagan, Pierce Laverty, Johnny Flynn, Daniel Guinness and Cory Quinn are among those who have earned their spurs during Tally's stewardship to date in a much-changed line-up.

But O'Hagan along with Caolan Mooney, Kevin McKernan, Ryan Johnston, Donal O'Hare, Jerome Johnston, Brendan McArdle and Connaire Harrison will offer a solid raft of experience for an Ulster series that O'Hagan sees as a major test of the new-look team's character and courage.

"We beat Antrim in the Ulster Championship last year but then we ourselves were well beaten by Donegal before we were rather unlucky to lose to Cavan in the qualifiers," states O'Hagan.

"We are obviously looking no further than Armagh at this point in time and there will be a great atmosphere in Newry for this game.

"We will be giving it everything I assure you - my wife, for one, will expect nothing less!"

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