By Niall McCoy
DOWN defender Niall McParland believes the Mourne County will never return to the heights of the past unless they install some stability in the entire operation.
Recent times have been dominated by a revolving door when it comes to players and something similar in terms of managers, with seven over the last 15 years included two stints from James McCartan.
The appointment of Conor Laverty ahead of last season and the introduction of a number of younger players seemed to point to a long-term strategy, and McParland said it’s imperative that time is given for the squad and coaching staff to develop.
“Armagh is the perfect example, through gritted teeth I say that,” said the Glenn man.
“I played in 2017 against all them lads and they’re still there. We just had massive turnover every year and it felt like you were starting brand new every year, every November or December trying to find your best team.
“You’d get through a bit of National League and a couple of injuries, it changed the year.
“It needs to be continuous now every year with that good base of a group, lads who trained all last year and if they all come back it’ll be a serious, serious base.”
No youngster has caught the eye more than Burren powerhouse Odhrán Murdock but news of an invitation to an AFL Combine has left Down fans fretting.
“You couldn’t sugar-coat that one, it would be a massive loss. He’s going to be a phenomenal player if he keeps on track,” McParland added.
“I did read it at the weekend and half closed my eyes and pretended I hadn’t. He’s a young lad so if he wants to go and give it a try, it might not be forever.
“They mightn’t like him, you never know, hopefully he only kicks with the bad foot when he’s over there!
“It would be a huge loss. Look at our management team, Marty Clarke there is well experienced and I’m sure Odhrán has given him a call, or vice-versa, and they’ve had a conversation about it.
“Odhrán’s a good, settled lad and he mightn’t have any interest on moving there. I honestly haven’t spoken to him about it, it’s not for me to talk on. Of course I don’t want him to go, but that’s me being selfish.”
McParland was speaking at the launch of a night of celebration for his old alma mater St Colman’s, Newry who are celebrating both 200 years as a school and 100 years of football at Violet Hill.
Michael Cusack, the most prominent founding member of the GAA, taught there and the roots firmed up from there with the school second on the Hogan Cup roll of honour with eight wins, four behind St Jarlath’s, Tuam.
McParland captained the 2010 side to glory at Croke Park and he is looking forward to celebrating all ranges of achievements at a gala dinner at the Canal Court Hotel on November 18.
“It was probably lost on me at that age, how important MacRory and Hogan Cup and Rannafast football was. Our team was lucky enough to be strong enough to win the three of them and it’s nothing when you’re 15 or 16 or 17 but later in life you realise how brilliant it was.
“Going to Croke Park and winning on All-Ireland final day, something I thought I’d be doing more regularly, it gives you some memories. You still run around with Niall Donnelly and Conor Gough, lifelong friends and it’s a great chance to celebrate it.”