O'Hagan – semi-final hero
Darren O’Hagan proved to be Down’s unlikely hero when his late score secured victory over Monaghan last time out and in doing so booked Down’s passage to a first Ulster final appearance in nine years.
The wing-back has enjoyed a steady championship campaign to date, but it was that point at the Athletic Grounds which ensured it was the Clonduff clubman who grabbed the headlines. According to O’Hagan, it was about seizing the initiative and taking the opportunity which presented itself in front of him,
“Aidan Carr sent over the equalising score, then Monaghan hit the kick-out and Down won it around the middle of the field. Monaghan were pressing us out, and Tommy Freeman, who I was marking, dropped back to help Monaghan out around the midfield. I saw space and broke down the left, hoping that Aidan Carr would play the cross-field ball. I gambled, I ended up in the square, luckily it broke kindly for me and put it over the bar.
“There was still a minute on the clock, so I was just praying that we would win the next ball and close it out. They got it and worked the shot, but luckily for us they put it wide. I think we all know that it could easily have been a very different result.”
Questions have often been asked about Down’s solidity in defence, but nobody can question the contribution of the half-backs to the Mourne county’s scoring total. Down players with numbers from seven down to two can be seen popping the ball over the bar with consistency, but rather than being recklessly attacking, O’Hagan argues that it is simply another example of modern football.
“When you look at the game now and how it’s played, half-backs are scoring more than half-forwards are. Half-forwards are getting bottled up and have to spend a lot of time with their back to goal, meaning it’s the half-backs and midfielders who are coming onto the ball with the space to shoot.
“Peter Harte scored three or four goals for Tyrone in the National League from half-back, but if you look across every game, the half-backs are chipping in with a few points in every game.”
The full story is in the current issue of Gaelic Life, published on Thursday July 19. Buy your copy now in your local newsagent, or you can purchase the online version – for only 90p – by clicking here