Down manager James McCartan has received a treble boost as the All Ireland Football Championship reaches a critical stage — yet he believes that his side will require even further inspiration if they are to make it into the last eight of the competition.
The successful deployment of established midfield player Dan Gordon at full-back in the last two qualifier matches against Longford and Offaly, the return to full fitness of the versatile Aidan Carr and the decision of experienced forward Ronan Murtagh to return to the squad having stepped aside a few weeks ago, have all served to heighten the Mourne county’s resolve for this weekend’s fourth round qualifier clash with Sligo.
But McCartan, concerned at his team’s slow start against Offaly, is now urging greater concentration and better finishing power against the Yeats county who were surprisingly beaten by Roscommon in Sunday’s Connacht final.
“We were leaking scores early on against Offaly and we found ourselves with gaps to plug. We took too much time to settle and we will maybe not escape as lightly when we meet Sligo,” McCartan points out.
Gordon’s impressive form at full-back and Carr’s input to the Offaly match are plus factors that McCartan is happy to take right now, while Murtagh, introduced as a second-half substitute in Tullamore, may get more game time against Roscommon.
“It’s good to have options at this time of the year but just the same, we need to have our strategy right. Sligo only lost by a point last Sunday and have claimed some huge scalps lately,” says McCartan.
l JIM McGuinness is way out in front in the race to be the next Donegal manager after Paddy Carr pulled out of the running to succeed John Joe Doherty.
Yesterday evening was the provisional deadline the Donegal county board had put in place for nominations and McGuinness is the only candidate to publically declare his interest after Carr's withdrawal.
The Navan-based Carr said: “I can't let my name go forward on this occasion. Logistically I'm just not in a position to give the commitment required.”