Down travel in hope rather than expectation says Mulholland

By Shaun Casey

DOWN travel to Clones to face Monaghan on Saturday in hope rather than expectation according to former player Shane Mulholland.

“I think you’re looking at performance and respectable scoreline to be honest,” said Mulholland.

“Down teams in the last 20 years have always had a potential every three or four seasons of a performance that comes from nowhere and you get a win somewhere that’s unexpected.

“And that’s just hoping beyond hope. The reality is all the form points to a Monaghan win. We’re going on the hope of a respectable scoreline and a good performance.”

Mulholland believes it is possible for the Mourne men to get a result.

“I think it’s possible, I would have a very positive perspective of Down players and Down DNA and Down football,” said the Warrenpoint boss.

“The problem for me is, we’re not marrying that with size and strength at the moment, we have lots of good individual footballers.

“If I look at Tyrone last year, they were transformed by two 6ft 3 men (Conn Kilpatrick and Brian Kennedy) who are big, mobile, athletic, into the middle of the field and it gave them a different dimension in their game.

“We don’t have that at the moment. We don’t have those types of big, mobile players and that’s a real problem, we seem to grow them smaller in Down. But we’ve got good footballers who can play.”

The loss of some key personnel has been a hammer blow before the championship, but Mulholland hopes the negativity surrounding Down football at the minute can bring the squad closer together.

“You take Liam Kerr and Finn McElroy out, who were probably two of your brighter stars through the league campaign, that’s a big blow.

“I think there’s a performance in them, there’s football ability there, there’s some really good players, it’s just logic would tell you that’s a hopeful synopsis. Just where Down are at the moment, it would be blind hope more than anything.

“There’s a suggestion that that episode in Dublin and the will he, won’t he (of manager James McCartan), had a galvanising effect on the squad. Potentially too late but maybe never too late in that anything that pulls the group together might be a very good thing.

“It’s just a pity that it’s in the public domain and that the whole of Ireland’s talking about it. I know James and I know Aidan (O’Rourke) very well; they’ll be running a really professional operation and they’ll be really disappointed with any breaches that went on.

“But maybe there’s a galvanising effect and again I’m going back to that hope place that maybe it pulls people together at the right time, maybe four weeks out and there’s a real focus.

“The work being done to win a championship match isn’t done four weeks out, it’s been done months ahead and it’s been tracking towards it. You don’t pull a championship performance together three or four weeks out.

“If it pulls them together a wee bit tighter, a wee bit of a siege mentality, no one expects us to win, people don’t think we’re operating in the right way, let’s show them what we can do.”

Mulholland looks back at his time in charge of the Down minors and insists the “winning culture” within the county must change.

“I had the Down minors seven or eight years ago and it was very noticeable to me even then that in a tight game, because they hadn’t been used to winning tight games and because they hadn’t a winning culture through development squads, we tended to, when the going got tough, we backed out and we lost.

“And I see it as a trend for Down teams that, (Pep) Guardiola talks about periods of the game where you have to hurt.

“Where Down are hurting in periods in the games, they don’t dig in and damage limitation, they tend to ship big scores and then the game runs away and I think people put their head down.

“I think there’s been a trend of that for three or four years across all levels.

“My worry here is, if Monaghan turn the screw and go on a six-, seven- or eight-score run, will Down have the fortitude to pull together and dig in and get a couple of scores and get themselves back into that game.

“It could become a blow out or it could become a game where if Down stay in it, that galvanising effect kicks in.

“And if it does, that would be great because you can build on that for next year and the year after.”

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