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Skipper O'Hagan believes Down side have winning formula

 

By John Campbell

Down skipper Darren O'Hagan would love to do what no player from his county has done for 23 years and that is take delivery of the Ulster Championship trophy.

When they reached the All-Ireland final seven years ago the Mournemen did so through the qualifiers, but the itch to regain the provincial silverware remains.

While O'Hagan admits that "it would be a dream come true" to collect the coveted Anglo-Celt Cup, he believes that Sunday's quarter-final showdown with neighbours Armagh could prove a defining match for his side.

Down's ongoing failure to make an impact in the Ulster series has bred a deep sense of frustration within a county noted for its passionate love affair with football but which has, for the most part, laboured on the periphery of the competitive sphere.

Clonduff clubman O'Hagan, however, is now keen to see pride fully restored in the red and black jersey.

"To be getting a home match in the Championship is a bonus for us because we always seem to have been drawn away for too long now, and the fact that it's Armagh makes it all the more appealing," says O'Hagan.

"When you look at it, there's nothing between the sides. We were a kick of the ball away from going down from Division Two and they were a kick of the ball away from coming up from Division Three. Sure, it would be a dream come true to win Ulster but we are just focused on Sunday," he adds.

Manager Eamonn Burns appeared to go out on a limb at the start of the year when he drafted players like Alan Davidson, Joe Murphy, Shay Millar and Ryan McAleenan into his side but his judgement has been vindicated by their consistency.

Around them, old hands like Kevin McKernan, Aidan Carr, Mark Poland, Peter Turley and Barry Maginn continue to buzz industriously, but O'Hagan warns that only a potent blend of old heads and young legs will suffice if anything is to be gained from Sunday's clash.

"To win at any level nowadays you need that mix of youth and experience and, while I feel we have it, the important thing is that we deliver on the day," insists O'Hagan.

"At the start of the league we thought we maybe would get into Division One but this did not happen. Now we have re-set our sights and that means we want a win over Armagh."

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