Stars haven't walked away from Down in droves: Paul Devlin
The widely held belief that Kilcoo stars have turned their backs on Down has been rubbished by Paul Devlin, one of four players from the reigning county champions in the squad.
Along with the Johnston brothers, Ryan and Jerome, and Darragh O'Hanlon, Devlin is committed to securing a starting place in the Down side for the next phase of the Allianz League, which the Mournemen will begin with a home Division Two tie against Meath on Saturday week.
"Obviously there has been speculation that players have left the squad and while a few have gone, I think the fact that 30 players were there for training on Monday night just 24 hours after we had returned from the loss to Clare in Ennis speaks for itself," pointed out Devlin.
"We recognise that Eamonn Burns can only pick 15 starters and while I did not start against Fermanagh or Clare, this has made me more determined to knuckle down and try and win a starting place against Meath.
"I know this applies to other guys as well. It was being suggested that Peter Turley was the latest to leave but he is a fireman and his duties mean that he cannot always make training. He is still involved and that's good because he was one of our better players last year."
Skipper Darren O'Hagan is urging players to buy into the philosophy of manager Burns and he is particularly anxious to see the side turn the corner in the league.
"I think there is still a lot to play for and I would urge all the players to give their full commitment to the county," said O'Hagan. "We have not made the best start to the league but we can maybe turn things round."
The notion that Down are forced to rely rather too heavily on inexperienced players has been downplayed by O'Hagan.
Kevin McKernan, Gerard McGovern, Brendan McArdle, Conor Maginn, Conaill McGovern, Peter Turley, Aidan Carr, Barry O'Hagan and Caolan Mooney lend a seasoned flavouring to the line-up while Bredagh clubman Alan Davidson has quickly emerged as a rare talent in attack and Cathal Magee has been imposing himself at centre-half-forward with Joe Murphy entrusted with linking the defence and attack.
"There are still good players in Down and it's important that we go forward with a positive attitude," maintained O'Hagan.
Yet strong feelings still persist within the county that a number of players who have been showing consistent impressive form at club level are currently being overlooked in terms of selection for the county panel.
Corey Quinn (Mayobridge), Conor Poland (Longstone) and Ceilum Doherty (Kilcoo) are three that would appear to come into this category.
But grassroots feelings can often fail to take into account the chasm that separates football at club and county level.
The drawn Dublin against Tyrone tie in dreadful conditions at Croke Park on Saturday night gave an insight into the demands that are placed on players in the top tier with the Red Hands' phenomenal work rate taking them close to victory had disciplinary indiscretions not intervened.
Devlin added: "Inter-county football has become much more physically demanding and all the players are aware that they have to be in peak condition.
"There is competition for starting places and that can only be healthy."