Coulter looks ahead after minor success

By Michael McMullan

DOWN minor manager Benny Coulter believes a handful of their current crop can go on to represent the county at senior level.

Of the 12 games in league and championship this season, Down lost three times in Ulster.

After losing to All-Ireland semi-finalists Derry in the league final, championship defeats to Tyrone and Monaghan followed.

In a competitive group, defeat to the Farney saw them eliminated from Ulster on head-to-head despite having a more favourable score difference than Monaghan.

In a new format, Down entered the All-Ireland third tier that gave them four more games including Saturday’s high-scoring win over Westmeath.

“These boys need to go back and play for their clubs and there’s three or four of them boys well capable of playing for the Down u-20s next year,” Coulter said.

The players have a strength and conditioning programme in place and Coulter will now get a similar plan rolled out to the u-16s ahead of next season’s minor campaign.

“I think at the minute in Down we’re getting the right people in place and with the right steps we’ll get there,” said Coulter, a minor All-Ireland winner in 1999.

When their win over Fermanagh in the final group game in Ulster wasn’t enough to book a quarter-final spot, they made a pact to squeeze as much out of the season as possible.

“It’s a C competition but that’s a good Westmeath team there too, the boys are building and it’s all about developing players,” he said.

“If we had lost the boys after the Fermanagh game, we probably wouldn’t have got the next four games, so this is a development competition.

“If we can get four or five of these boys into our u-20 squad and then push on to the senior squad. In five or six years’ time, I hope to be looking at three, four or five of them boys playing for Down seniors.

“I told them in the changing room after we beat Fermanagh and Newry, I said to the boys they’d be playing an All-Ireland final.

“If it’s a C competition, so be it. It was about getting them boys back for another six or seven weeks because they get very well looked after.”

On top of facilities, training, food and gear, Coulter paid tribute to his management and their level of preparation.

“We also had Darren Mullen in, who has been about Newry City for 10 or 15 years,” Coulter added.

“He has his UEFA badges in soccer. It’s unbelievable to have that man with us. The experience he has brought to the camp this year has been unbelievable. He has managed at the highest level in youth football.”

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