McCartan brings new faces into the fold at Down

By Shaun Casey

IT’S been seven long months since Down’s last outing, a humiliating 16-point defeat to Donegal in the opening round of the 2021 Ulster Championship.

Paddy Tally has since resigned from his managerial post, spinning the rumour mill into motion. Many replacements were mentioned, most eye-catching of all was the possible line up of Conor Laverty, Martin Clarke and Jim McGuinness.

That venture proved unsuccessful however and former boss James McCartan has returned to the hotseat for a second term, along with Armagh man Aidan O’Rourke.

The two-time All-star guided the Mourne men to the 2010 All-Ireland decider in his first year in charge, can he rework his magic 12 years on?

His reign begins on Friday evening when Down kickstart their McKenna Cup campaign with an away trip to Donegal before hosting Antrim four days later.

McCartan is likely to use the preseason competition to bleed some youngsters into the squad, especially as he’ll be without the Kilcoo contingent for the first two rounds at least.

Mickey Moran’s men are currently targetting an Ulster Club title, and more, as they face Derrygonnelly
in the provincial final later this month.

No doubt McCartan will hope to have as many Magpies involved as possible, once their club run ends.

Former county captain Niall McParland returns to the fold having spent the last three years teaching in Doha, Qatar.

Mayobridge’s Charlie Smyth is expected to be called up along with Andrew Gilmore and Odhran Murdock, members of the u-20 Ulster-winning team of last season.

McCartan will need all the firepower he can get his hands on as it’s likely Donal O’Hare and Connaire Harrison will no longer be available.

Two talented forwards, the pair have recently taken up coaching roles at club level. Burren man O’Hare is with St Bride’s in Louth under Declan McCoy while Harrison is involved with Ballymartin under the management of Ciaran Brannigan.

They may also be missing experienced defender Darren O’Hagan, who recently became a father, while Liam Kerr remains on the sidelines through injury.

All preparation leads to the opening round of the league, where Down face the challenge of a resurgent Derry to begin an action packed Division Two campaign.

Connacht pair Galway and Roscommon suffered relegation from the top tier last season while Clare, Cork, Offaly and Meath form a solid second division.

McCartan brought his side to the Division Two final in 2010, but lost to rivals Armagh.

He will hope he can repeat the heroics of his first season in charge once again.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW