Psychologist Hackett has turned our fortunes around, says Turley
Down midfielder Peter Turley has hailed the work of Brendan Hackett, the sports psychologist he credits with transforming the Mournemen's form after they went almost two years without a win.
With a background in athletics - he was chief executive of Athletics Ireland - and having managed the Westmeath senior and Kildare minor teams, Hackett had been involved with the Down squad - now preparing for an Ulster semi-final against Monaghan this weekend - during James McCartan's time in charge, and the Monaghan native became familiar with Eamonn Burns, one of McCartan's selectors.
It is believed that Burns - now the Mournemen manager - brought Hackett in after their second defeat in the league, away to Clare.
"He's been playing a big part. We had a training weekend (in Castleknock) and he was there and was a big part of that too," said Downpatrick man Turley.
"Maybe that part has been missing a little while, the belief. Brendan was always telling us about the 1960s teams, pushing at us that we have a tradition of football, of going out and expressing ourselves."
After studying physical education in Thomond College, Limerick, Hackett became one of the youngest ever inter-county managers when he was appointed to the Longford post as a 26-year-old in 1987. He led them to league promotion and to a Leinster semi-final appearance in 1988 where they suffered a heavy defeat to Dublin.
After Hackett's intervention, Down beat Meath and Derry in their next two league outings and salvaged a draw in their last game away to Cork to survive in Division Two by scoring difference.
After the Ulster Championship win over Armagh earlier this month, Turley acknowledged the poor record in recent years.
"It had been a long time since we had won. I don't think we had won a Championship match since James McCartan was managing us," he said.
"It was hard-fought. We knew we weren't right before the Monaghan game last year and we had a terrible league campaign.
"This year we turned things around during the National League campaign. We were just building and building to get to this game. We just felt good before we went out before the game and we did the job."
On the transformation of the team from the opening night of the league when they lost to Fermanagh by nine points, he stated: "We have come a long way since that. We worked hard, we got our fingers out and we knew we were the only ones that could change it. We all decided that we were going to do it.
"We haven't been as prepared for a match in a long, long time.
"We were really focused for it, everybody was champing at the bit, even boys that did not get a run out. Barry O'Hagan was told he was dropped during the week, but he came with a good attitude."
And now they have an Ulster semi-final against Monaghan to look forward to, and the chance to avenge their heaviest-ever Championship defeat - they were beaten by 19 points in the quarter-final last year.
"We are under no illusions. We have Monaghan next and that will be very, very difficult," added Turley.
Meanwhile, Down forward Barry O'Hagan will be ruled out of this weekend's Ulster semi-final against Monaghan through injury.
It is believed he dislocated his shoulder in a club league game against Warrenpoint the week after the Mournemen's victory over Armagh.
In other news, it appears that any chance Antrim have of a rematch against Sligo in the All-Ireland qualifiers is now over.
The Saffrons have run out of time to appeal after Sligo used seven substitutes, with concerns over one of those being classified as a blood sub.
With a lack of appetite to launch an appeal, Sligo will definitely face Meath in the next round.