McCartan hoping Down can seal semi-final spot

By Niall McCoy

WITH one box already ticked ahead of their final league meeting with Louth this weekend, Down ladies boss Ronan McCartan is hoping to put a cross in the other.

Last week’s draw in Sligo coupled with their round one win over Roscommon means that a relegation play-off is out of the equation. They can still, however, finish third and outside the Division Three semi-final spots if they lose to the Wee county and the meeting of the Connacht sides doesn’t end in a draw.

“We can’t be relegated anyway,” McCartan said ahead of Sunday’s game at Páirc Esler (2pm).

“It’s a big game for us. Look at the league, look at our group, it has been incredibly close.

“Roscommon beat Louth by a point, we beat Roscommon by a point and then the other two games were draws.

“Against Sligo on Sunday, I turned and joked with one of the supporters along the line and said this is going to the wire, and sure enough it ended in a draw.

“It’s a free hit for us in a way. There’s no longer that relegation risk.”

That 3-6 to 3-6 draw at the IT Sligo grounds was another reminder to McCartan that character exists in this Down team.

He may not be happy that his side are allowing the opposition to race into big leads, but he is delighted with how they respond to such setbacks.

“We lost Viv McCormack to what we felt was a harsh sin-bin late on. A point down, away in Sligo, many a team would have dropped the heads.

“Young Paige Smith, who is only really playing her first year of league football, went on a brilliant charge down the line and won the free. Sarah Dougherty, who converted a penalty too, landed the free. Pressure moments and she was fit for them.

“We lost two early goals, we were 6-1 down against Sligo. We were 7-1 down the first day against Roscommon. We have been delighted with how they have responded to those set-backs.”

McCartan is in his first year in charge and a shortened league season gives him less inspection time. He expects a few more players to get their chance in Newry.

“We’ve tried to use as many girls as possible,” he said.

“We have given time to 25 girls, which is pleasing for us as we’ve only played two games. A few more hopefully will get a chance this weekend.

“From my point of view as a new manager, I don’t have the luxury of a full seven-round league as normal. That would have allowed us to bleed a few players but every game has been pretty much knock-out football almost this season.”

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