Tyrone experience on big stage was decisive, claims Down manager

Experience was the missing ingredient, as Down’s young side crashed-and-burned in the Clones heat.

Tyrone were just too cute, too long on the road, to be caught by a rising Mourne side that had come from nowhere to reach an Ulster final.

A derby win over Armagh, followed by a shock semi-final defeat of Monaghan, had excited fans with promises of a return to the glory days.

The swagger had returned to Down football, but harsh reality came back to bite, as 31,912 spectators looked on those in red and black with a sense of dread and inevitability.

And so it proved.

After going toe-to-toe with the provincial champions for 35 minutes, Down gave way under the pressure, as Tyrone stepped up the tempo and piled on the scores.

This game was over long before Ronan O’Neill came off the bench to drive home the final nails, in the form of two goals.

“Experience is crucial, their experience in those situations is massive, and Tyrone had more experience than we had,” said Down manager, Eamonn Burns.

“For a lot of our players, it was their first time on the big stage of an Ulster final and I thought they tried very, very hard, at times. It didn’t work out for some of them, but that’s the way it is.

“We are disappointed. I thought, on the day, the best team won and I thought it was very encouraging how we finished the game.

“We kept battling to the end, we didn’t throw the towel in. So, that will stand us in good stead.

“The other thing we have to factor in is that was our first time in an Ulster final. Tyrone, some of those boys, it was their second or even their fourth. All those things come to play, but I have to say, I am very proud of them.” However, Burns feels this painful day out in the famous market town will prove valuable in the evolution of his team.

“Today’s experience will stand us in good stead. It’s a learning curve and we’re taking small steps. Today, we would’ve liked to take an Ulster title, but, unfortunately, we didn’t. I don’t think we can have any complaints; the better team won.”

Down face either Monaghan or Armagh in the final qualifier round. They have beaten both of these Ulster neighbours already in the provincial championship, but Burns fears the momentum may now lie with the team coming off a win.

The Orchard ended Tipperary’s run on Saturday, while Monaghan emerged from a tricky trip to Carlow with a victory.

“We’ll see who it is on Monday and then we’ll set our stall out. It depends on how you dress it up.

“We’re coming off the back of a defeat, they’re coming off the back of a win, so it’s up to the management team to get the players up again, and ready to go in a fortnight’s time.

“We’ll definitely be doing our very best to have the players ready to compete again on Saturday week.”


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