Ulster SFC: Paddy Burns feels the heat as Armagh battle past Down (2024)

Ulster SFC: Paddy Burns feels the heat as Armagh battle past Down (1)Image source, Getty Images

John Haughey

BBC Sport Northern Ireland



  • Published

Armagh corner-back Paddy Burns enjoyed being in the loving embrace of wife Orla, daughter Clodagh and other family and friends on the Clones pitch after his lively 74 minutes of football.

The Forkhill native has been playing his club football for Down outfit Burren over the last two years and joked “that made things interesting for me today”.

At one stage while shadowing marauding Down defender Ceilum Doherty, Burns even shoved Conor Laverty in the first half after the Mourne County boss had beckoned his fellow Kilcoo man to the sideline to pass on some instructions.

“I was getting it from a few people in the stand,” Burns told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

“I got a wee bit from Conor and the other coaches. You know what. I don’t mind getting it on the pitch but when you are getting it from the line……leave it to the players.”

But there were no hard feelings and Burns revealed he and the Down boss had metaphorically kissed and made up at half-time.

'Conor gave me a wink and smile'

Asked about the incident later, Laverty also laughed it off, saying that it was one of those “pushing of the boundaries” that happens in the heat of battle but is quickly forgotten.

“I just jogged over beside him and started to hear it. Listen it’s a bit of craic,” said Burns of the sideline incident.

“At half-time we were going in and Conor gave me a wee wink and a smile."

Whether the sledging from Laverty and others had included reference to Burns notching an own goal after he attempted to clear Doherty’s first-half finish off the line he wasn’t saying.

“I’ve a wee own goal for the record too,” he laughed.

“It was over the line. I was just trying to chase it back.”

Like his manager Kieran McGeeney, Burns was accentuating the positive of the Orchard men coming out on the right side of a close game after so many narrow defeats in big matches in recent years.

“It’s actually probably a good thing for us that we got a good tight game. We didn’t really perform. A few tough decisions against us too and we still managed to grind it out. That’s good for confidence.”

But Burns wasn’t sugar-coating the Armagh display as Down’s defensive shape and the Mourne men’s ability to attack at speed resulted in a difficult afternoon for the Orchard side.

The corner-back admitted a few video nasties could be coming the Armagh players’ way in the coming days.

“There will be plenty said I’m sure. That’s high level football. If you don’t play to your potential on a given day, any good team can beat you with the way they set up now.

“We’ve been beaten before by Down in the past when we were expected to win so we weren’t coming in expecting it to be an easy game or that losing was unthinkable.

“We were very much, ‘it’s a semi-final….if one team turns up and performs and the other team doesn’t, anything can happen’ and that’s almost what did happen and thankfully we just managed to grind it out.”

After Armagh huffed and puffed in the closing stages as they chased an equaliser, substitute Aidan Nugent finally produced an incision into the Down defence to fire over an equaliser before his fellow Cullyhanna man Jason Duffy, who also was introduced in the second half, kicked the winner.

Burns admitted that he had been delighted to see Nugent's arrival in the closing stages.

“Aidan Nugent is giving me my fill of it in training the last three, four weeks so I was glad to see him come off the bench and do it because against Fermanagh he came on and the ball just didn’t go over for him.

“I’d no doubt when I saw him coming around and dummying the ball…..I didn’t even look. I just knew it was over when it left his foot.”

'Gut-wrenching to come so close'

While Burns’ relief was palpable, Down half-forward Ryan Johnston’s crushing disappointment was even more evident.

“It’s gut-wrenching whenever you come so close,” said the Kilcoo man, who was part of the Down side beaten 4-10 to 0-12 by Armagh at the corresponding stage last year.

“One point…..it may as well be 10 points. I’m devastated for all the lads. They gave it their all and we just came up short in the end."

The Mournemen now face the task of raising themselves for another Tailteann Cup tilt after losing to Meath in the final of the second-tier competition last summer.

Saturday’s agonising defeat was the fourth occasion over the past 12 months that Down have lost a one-off game which would secured passage to the Super 16s but Johnston said they have no option but to go again in a few weeks.

“We see ourselves as wanting to play in the Sam Maguire and really testing ourselves against the best in order to really push on and grow as a group. But it is what it is. It’s the Tailteann Cup now.”

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Ulster SFC: Paddy Burns feels the heat as Armagh battle past Down (2024)
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