I thought it was going to be tough to get a result in Newry - never an easy place to go but it has to be said that with all the absentees there was a lot of positives from the game.
From a defensive point of view, apart from the goal and maybe one other opportunity, Down did not open up our back line. Down have always been a side, under all their manager,s who have been able to score goals at will. I thought we moved the ball quicker out of the defence and were very quick to support the forward line at every opportunity, especially Karl Lacey and Anthony Thompson.
The midfield pairing of Rory Kavanagh and Neil Gallagher got through a huge amount of work and were available to link the play at every opportunity. Up front Mark McHugh kicked two good points and worked hard for the team; Stephen Griffin did well and a few more games will definitely help him along.
The rest of the forward line worked hard and moved the ball quick and with purpose but Down had a lot of men behind the ball and there was very little space to work the score.
There seemed to be a hesitancy to have a go for points from far out, something that will have to be practiced as most defences will use the same tactic as that of Down.
At the end there were chances to get the equaliser but we probably lacked the presence of a more experienced player in the forward line; we do play the game at a great pace at all times and such is the fitness of the players there isn’t a problem but there are times when you have to slow the game down, work the ball to an area were you either draw the free or give one of the forwards an easier chance of the score.
It will be important today to get a result as I believe that Laois would be one of the teams who will be in the fight to avoid relegation. Jim McGuinness, above all this year, will want to cement his place in division one and winning all your home games is a must; so there will be some pressure when the Leinster side come to Letterkenny.
I don’t expect too many changes from the team that started last Saturday. At the moment the numbers are limited with players not back to full fitness and a few out injured. It will also give Jim the opportunity to give the likes of Martin O’Reilly another chance to shine; along with Adrian Hanlon they provide the team management with a different option with their pace and ability to take scores. With the open spaces in O’Donnell Park there will be the option of sending the ball long and fast in to the likes of Stephen Griffin, Dermot Molloy and Patrick McBrearty.
One thing I would like to point out is that Patrick McBreaty, if he plays today, will have played four games in eight days. At eighteen years of age and without doubt the most talented player to come out of the county since Michael Murphy, surely playing all these games in such a short space of time is not doing the lad any good. We have heard enough from the many committees within the GAA about the subject of burn-out and young players losing their appetite for the game. Maybe someone should be looking out for the long term interest of the young lad rather than any short term gain that might be had. It’s just a thought.
If there is one thing we will learn in the national league this year it will be the difference playing in division one and that of division two last year. Where we might have got a second bite of the cherry last year, don’t expect it in this campaign.
Any mistakes made will be punished and if every game is not approached will the usual commitment we will be made pay and the last thing we would want is to be in a dog fight at the end of the league to avoid going back to division two, especially after the lengths the players have gone to the last few years.