McKernan: Down’s midfield maestro Murdock “a different level”

By Shaun Casey

FORMER Down defender Kevin McKernan says his clubmate Odhran Murdock is “a different level of footballer” and isn’t surprised that the young midfielder is producing the goods in the red and black of Down.

James McCartan handed Murdock his inter-county championship debut in the opening round of the 2022 Ulster Championship, and he played a pivotal role for Conor Laverty’s side last season.

Murdock, who attracted some AFL interest for his performances in 2023, also hit 1-1 in the U20 Ulster final last season against Derry as the Mourne County collected their second provincial title at that grade in three years.

“He’s a different level of footballer that our own club in Burren have produced in the past 10 or 15 years. He’s a once a generation player really,” said McKernan of Murdock, who recently bagged 2-3 against Limerick in the second round of the league.

“He’s got pace, power, he’s both footed and he looks after the ball really well and when the jugular’s there he really goes for it. It’s exciting for Down and it’s exciting for Burren and the players around him.

“He has a really good knack of bringing them into it and you know it bodes well for building a team around a player like him.

“He’s got that sort of persona that he just loves his football, he doesn’t seem to play with any pressure and long may that continue.”

This week, Laverty’s side travel to Belfast for a top of the table clash with Ulster rivals Antrim, who have also experienced a winning start to the Division Three campaign, beating both Limerick and Offaly.

The two sides will also lock horns once the championship begins, and a league final encounter could be on the cards if the two teams continue the positive form that they’ve showed so far in the season.

But that’s for another day. Sunday is all that matters in the eyes of Laverty and Saffron boss Andy McEntee. McKernan, who helped Down reach the All-Ireland final alongside Laverty in 2010, believes the Mourne men should capture victory this weekend.

“I’d be disappointed if Down don’t win it to be honest,” McKernan told the Gaelic Lives Podcast on this week’s preview show. “Antrim are missing a few men and to be honest, Down are probably short just three or four players.

“In terms of their best 15, Ryan Johnston and Danny Magill (are missing) but outside of that they have been trialling a new goalkeeper in John O’Hare.

“Niall Kane had been there last year but outside of that, Down will be close to their top best team on the pitch on Sunday.

“If Down have realistic ambitions of playing Division Two football, they need to be going to Antrim and winning. Hopefully at Corrigan Park, it’ll be a good atmosphere for both teams and building towards the championship, both teams will grow from games like this.”

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