Friday 28 April 2017

Down's soccer convert Davidson taking big switch in his stride

Alan Davidson in action for Down against Derry in Sunday’s McKenna Cup clash at Newry. Photo: © Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Alan Davidson in action for Down against Derry in Sunday’s McKenna Cup clash at Newry. Photo: © Matt Mackey / Press Eye

Declan Bogue

Two games played, two wins, 1-13 scored and a man of the match statuette sitting pretty on the mantelpiece. Down attacker Alan Davidson could be forgiven for thinking that this inter-county Gaelic football thing was easy.

What makes it all the more remarkable is how the former Newry City, Glenavon and Ballymena Irish League soccer player admits he has played fewer than 50 competitive games of Gaelic football in his life after picking up the Bank of Ireland award for his performance in Sunday's win over Derry.

As a youngster, he played at U-12 level with Warrenpoint, but it wasn't until he decided to play with south Belfast club Bredagh in the 2015 season that he came to prominence.

Club manager Jody Gormley questioned why he wasn't getting a call-up for county action, having finished 2015 as the leading scorer at that level.

Antrim attempted to bring him into their fold and despite Down reaching for the gate after the horse bolted, managed to retrieve him in time.

Nine points against Derry - seven struck from frees off the ground - was ample demonstration of his ability and Donal O'Hare will have work to do to regain his position as Down's deadball specialist, especially with Davidson nailing a penalty in his 1-4 tally the first day out against Queen's.

"I am still learning. I think that was my 45th competitive match. I haven't played 50 competitive games so I am still learning in each game I am playing in," Davidson said after kicking Down to their first victory over another county in 21 months.

He breaks down the games, with 21 in 2016 as Bredagh captured the Intermediate Championship, and 17 the year before.

A self-employed physical trainer by profession, the 27-year-old articulated the adjustment from Irish League soccer to inter-county football intelligently, saying: "It's a different type of fitness. In soccer, you are constantly turning so it is a lot more agile. But Gaelic players in lines are a lot more stronger. In a linear sense, they are much stronger whereas soccer players are more agile.

"Coming into the game, I did a tiny bit of weights to build my upper body. My running has always been good so the transition has been smooth enough for me."

Schedule

Being his own boss too works out in terms of working around the training schedule as Eamonn Burns' men aim to bounce back into Division 1 of the National League this spring, ahead of the first Ulster Championship home draw since 1999, when they host neighbours Armagh in the summer.

"Essentially, the professionalism is probably something similar," continued Davidson, a midfielder in the 11-man code. "There is probably more professionalism in the GAA to be brutally honest.

"The challenge of being out in front of the crowds, I am sort of used to that. I can go out and be confident, play my own game and it doesn't unsettle me."

Although Down have come out the other side of a dreadful run with Sunday's win, their new addition has spoken of how much he has enjoyed slotting in and the spirit of the camp.

"I will not get carried away with it. But I am enjoying it," he said. "It's a great bunch of lads in there, there are no egos in the changing-room. Everyone gels together - a lot of the teams I was in before had certain cliques, and there is none of that at all.

"Everyone is really harmonious, which is what you want. A ground foundation is a harmonious group."

Tomorrow night Davidson gets an early taster of a derby is when Down travel to the Athletic Grounds for a winner-takes-all decider against Armagh in the final round of Group A games.

"I don't know if the squads that play on Wednesday night will be the same as Championship, but we will give it a go and see how things progress," he said.

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