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Saturday 10 December 2016

Monaghan likely to make bad year worse for Down

Monaghan talisman Conor McManus. Photo: Sportsfile
Monaghan talisman Conor McManus. Photo: Sportsfile

Down, that last Ulster bastion of the beautiful game, have finally come to a realisation.

Or so it would seem, based on Eamonn Burns's comments this week.

"For a lot of Down people that is a thorn in their side because they like to go and watch attractive football, but it is what it is," he said.

"Down are always quite flamboyant, they play open, attractive football.

"The way the new systems set up it makes it difficult for you to do that and you always have to have a defensive plan and rearguard set up to counter-act what's coming at you."

Better late than never.

Hearty

Down were abysmal in this year's Divsion 1 and finished pointless.

The problem for Burns now is that the best defensive systems in football, those like Tyrone's, Dublin's and Donegal's, take more than a few months to put in place.

And they take a hearty buy-in from the players involved.

Shy of putting a leash on Conor McManus tomorrow, it's not clear what Down can do to try and turn the tables on a seasoned and confident Monaghan team.

They might, in all likelihood, put three men on him and take their chances on scoring more than the other 14 players on the Monaghan team, but even in that scenario, Malachy O'Rourke's side look a more studious bet.

Monaghan has a settled back six ahead of a quality goalkeeper.

They have a smartly-constructed and well-rehearsed defensive alignment, with sticky man-markers like Colin Walshe and Ryan Wylie.

They have a functional and physically powerful midfield and, as a unit, have experience of negotiating these types of Ulster hurdles.

Down have none of the above and, with the noble exception of Donal O'Hare, don't possess a forward likely to put up a result-changing score.

In short, Monaghan are too good, too assured of themselves to make any slip against a team on a decidedly downward curve.

ODDS: Monaghan 2/9, Draw 10/1, Down 4/1

VERDICT: Monaghan

ulster sfc: monaghan v down (live rte2 tomorrow 2.0)

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