Mooney back in the mix with Down

By Shaun Casey

CAOLAN Mooney is back training with Down ahead of the upcoming season following a year on the sidelines through injury. The versatile RGU Downpatrick star tore his ACL at the end of the 2022 season and didn’t feature in the red and black at all last season.

The former county captain, who spent a number of years playing for Collingwood in Australia before returning to the Mourne County for the 2015 season, will be a vital addition to Conor Laverty’s side for their upcoming McKenna Cup and National League campaigns.

“Mooney had a full season with the club, and he’s recovered well from his knee operation, and he was going well for the club,” said Down selector Declan Morgan.

“He’s back in training and he’s like any player that comes back from a serious injury, he’s hungry to make up that time.

“He’s determined to get back out on the pitch to play for Down and it was great to see him even back playing for Downpatrick this year and playing well and getting over that knee injury.

“It was a serious injury and there’s an awful lot of it about at the minute unfortunately for players and you hate to see it or hear it happening to anybody and especially somebody that you know and that you work with.

“We had players last year that unfortunately were on the receiving end of that like Barry O’Hagan and Barry is coming back and he’s working hard on his rehab so please God he gets a bit of football in 2024 for Down.”

There will be a number of fresh faces in the red and black this season and the McKenna Cup, where Down face the reigning Ulster champions Derry along with Cavan, will offer Laverty a chance to test out some of the emerging talent coming through the ranks.

Down have won two Ulster titles in the last three years at u-20 level, under Laverty’s watch, and they are hoping to draft through a number of those youngsters.

“We’ve got a good few of the u-20s, even from last year, we’re probably going to be the same as everybody at the minute, we’re trialling boys out and we’re going to hopefully settle on a panel now in the next week or so,” added Morgan.

“There’s a lot of guys still in that trial process and they’re making a name for themselves definitely.

“We were lucky over this last three years to be involved with the u-20s and to be able to bring players through and to be working really closely with them.

“We know what we have there with the u-20s and we know that they can play at this level so it’s up to them to go and grab it now.

“Hopefully when we get to the start of the McKenna Cup, we’ll have our panel nailed down.

“There will be a few new faces in it, like every squad in the country and it’s up to those guys to take that opportunity.”

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