After 15 months without a win against another county side — a period ended by January’s McKenna Cup victory over Derry — Burns’ team showed last week’s home victory over Meath was no one-off with a superb opening period that had the game all but wrapped up by half-time.
Leading 1-10 to no score after 22 minutes, Down cut Derry to shreds with Ryan Johnston goaling and Kevin McKernan and Conor Maginn dictating play.
This eight-point victory puts a very different complexion on the Division Two table — the Down manager agreed that last week’s win had given his side impetus.
“Confidence is a big boost to any team and we’d be no different,” said Burns.
“We have some experienced players who, when our back was to the wall kept going, and for the younger lads who have come on to the team, the two wins will build confidence.
“If we’re going to make more progress we’re going to have to keep taking these steps and keep improving. Players and management are very aware of that but from the Meath game to today there was another marked improvement.”
In contrast to the free flowing, attacking football of Down, Derry were a shambles. Bereft of any threat going forward, they never got close to Down in the opening exchanges with Emmett’s McGuckin’s first-half goal offering only brief hope of a comeback. Leading by eight at the break, Down were able to control the possession in the second half and never looked under any threat.
“We had two very good halves,” said Burns. “The first half we had the wind at our back and we used it very well and got a few scores on the board. After half-time we were able to hold the ball and move it; punch holes and get scores when we needed them.
“We’ve done that before (dictated possession) but when you don’t get the result people don’t focus on it. Against Meath we did it very well, particularly at the start of the second half and that was the focus going out — to hold the ball and use it intelligently and not give it back to the opposition.”
The result leaves Derry, who travel to Galway in two weeks, facing a battle to stay in the division. Assistant boss Brian McGuckin refused to make excuses for a poor display. “I am not going to stand here and make excuses. I am not going to make excuses for the players either. The players didn’t do themselves justice. They didn’t work as hard as they could work, they didn’t put Down under the type of pressure they needed to put them under.”
T Mallon; N Keenan, C Nevin, C McGrogan; N Forester, O Duffin, M McEvoy; J Kielt (0-1, 1f), C McAtamney (0-2); E Lynn, E McGuckin (1-2), C McWilliams; R Bell, N Loughlin, B Heron.
B Grant for R Bell, 39; M Craig (0-1) for O Duffin, 49; G O’Neill for C Nevin, 55; C Mullan for C McCrogan, 53.
M Cunningham; R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O’Hagan; D O’Hanlon (0-6, 5f), B McArdle, C Mooney (0-3); A Carr, P Turley; K McKernan, C Maginn (0-1), J Murphy (0-1); S Millar, B O’Hagan (0-3), R Johnston (1-1).
N Donnelly for G McGovern (inj), H/T; J Johnston for B O’Hagan, 65; M Poland for S Millar, 69; P Devlin for J Murphy, 69; A Davidson for R Johnston, 69; C Magee for C Maginn, 70.
Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)