Get the Basics Right

May 29, 2012

The message from management to the Down senior team will be a simple one, get the basics right – disrupt the supply to burly poacher Seamus Quigley; physically challenge your direct opponent – make every ball a battle; forwards do what forwards are meant to do – keep the scoreboard ticking over; as the game progresses class will tell,  Division 1 v Division 4, the intensity and tempo of matches against the likes of All-Ireland Champions Dublin and Ulster Champions Donegal versus  matches with London and Kilkenny, no disrespect intended, must surely be an advantage and as Wicklow showed in the Division 4 final playing the ball simple, direct kicking to the scoring zone can unhinge this Fermanagh defence.

Down should expect a big burst at the start by the home side, urged on by success starved home supporters but Down must come through this early sorting out period without mortal wounds inflicted upon them.

Fermanagh have shown an ability to vary their kick outs, long and short, and also take quick ones so each Down man must be alert for the seventy minutes; they like to play through the hands, also their half backs and midfield get forward at every opportunity so their direct Down opponent needs to stay with their man.

Then there is the Canavan factor, bringing Tyrone know how at style of play to Fermanagh set up. Down defenders must be disciplined as Fermanagh will try to stop Down’s support runners though an alert referee and linesmen should lessen the possibility of excess off the ball interference.

Fermanagh let in one goal in 8 league games but 2 in the final, they were beaten all ends up at midfield and trailed in the first half by 9 points to Wicklow; the Wicklow full-forward scored 1-5 though Fermanagh were without Barry Owens, he is back as are James Sherry, Tommy McElroy and Martin McGrath but their captain Ryan McCluskey is out with a facial injury.

What of Down? Injury will deprive them of team captain Benny Coulter and impressive new boy Niall McParland, comment from the camp suggests Dan Gordon will also miss out though an appearance at some stage by the inspirational utility player should not be ruled out and expect Declan Rooney who has been getting up to speed through club football to come in if required.

Key positions will be at full back, midfield and full forward, Dan could have filled each of these spots. At full back Conor Garvey has the physical presence to challenge

Seamus Quigley, and the experience, having played there in some tough league matches; at full-forward Down are not coming down with options if they want to bomb the ball in and Eoin McCartan or Arthur McConville look the likeliest choices; while at centre field Down could go with Ambrose Rogers and Kalum King as their most experienced pairing and try to dominate this vital sector from the first ball causing Fermanagh to make switches in an effort to get a foothold.

All-Star Brendan McVeigh will again start between the posts and Dan McCartan and Benny McArdle will provide cover as Quigley tries to bring the corner forwards into the game with lay-offs and flick-ons. There is an argument for including Liam Doyle at number six and he brings dependability from frees on the right hand side of the pitch though he may require defensive cover. Aidan Branagan and Kevin McKernan could start either side of him. Up front Mark Poland will wear the playmakers number eleven shirt with Danny Hughes, whose injury recovery was well managed, and Conor Maginn are the sort of hard working wing half forwards required in the modern game. Conor Laverty, easily Down’s best player in the latter stages of the league, will line out in the ful-forward line though won’t stay there for long; that leaves free takers Aidan Carr and Donal O’Hare to contest the remaining starting spot, O’Hare offers more of a scoring threat but Carr is the more multi purpose choice and can switch out the field if needed.

It’s really Down’s match to lose though as Laois lost to Longford last week in Leinster. The Mourne men must remember, an upset is always possible if attitude is not spot on.

The preceding Minor match sees the two wooden spoon teams from the Ulster League meet but Fermanagh will have their Hogan and MacRory Cup stars from St Michael’s Enniskillen to call upon so it will take a huge improvement from the Down boys to progress.