By Kieran Lynch
DOWN’S Senior and Intermediate Championships get underway this weekend, and the fixture administrators have arguably saved the best for last, with Monday night’s clash between Burren and Mayobridge concluding the first-round action.
Ahead of the game, Mayobridge manager Steven Poacher spoke to Gaelic Life, and he took the positives out of a league campaign that saw his team get off to a flying start, before concluding with four defeats in their last five games.
“It was a really positive league campaign,” he said.
“We used 36 players during the league, and to have that many lads with Division One football now under their belts, is brilliant for the club.
“We were the highest scoring team in Division One after 11 games, and in the first 11 games, our target was to make the top four. But when we got there, it probably couldn’t have come at a worse time, with injuries and men emigrating, so we went into those games with a skeleton squad.”
This year has been the Ballyholland native’s first at the helm, and he feels that his team is in the process of building for the future, as they get to grips with what he expects from them tactically.
“I don’t see this as a one-year thing,” Poacher affirmed.
“Mayobridge have a very supportive committee, it’s a very vibrant club, and they understand that we’re bringing young lads through, and it takes time. We’re hoping to develop the club for a long-term basis.
“I don’t think that people are too interested in what way you’re playing, as long as you’re winning, but you look at what players you have, and you try and set your team up as best as you possibly can.”
Whatever about the future, Mayobridge have a tough task ahead of them in the present, in the form of Down Division One League Champions Burren, and without one of their key men Cory Quinn after he emigrated to Australia, the ‘Bridge will go into Monday night’s game as underdogs.
Despite that, Poacher can’t wait for the championship to get underway.
“This is what the players strive for. This is what everybody enjoys, playing under the lights in Páirc Esler in front of a big crowd,” he said.
“But it’s going to be very difficult for us; Burren are an extremely good team. Odhran Murdock is a superstar, Liam Kerr too, plus they have Ryan Magill, Paddy McCarthy, Niall Toner – those lads are all fine and talented footballers.
“Their league final win over Kilcoo, from a psychological perspective, could be huge for Burren. Plus, they have Jim McCorry, who’s a shrewd operator along the line as well, he has them well organised and hard to break down.
“Burren are very good defensively, so we’re going to have to be patient on Monday night and be careful with the ball, because they get men back quickly, and they have very strong and powerful runners.
“We need to be switched on, but we’re just going to play to our strengths and hope that we can get enough scores to get over the line.”