All Ireland Football Championship: No fear means Down are ready for anything
The fearless approach adopted by Down’s current battalion of young guns which has stood them in such good stead to date could prove their ultimate weapon against Kildare on Sunday.
That’s the view of boss James McCartan and his backroom team as they put the finishing touches to their strategy for the shoot-out with Kieran McGeeney’s marauding foot soldiers.
When McCartan drafted Martin Clarke, Kalum King, Mark Poland, Paul McComiskey, Brendan McArdle and Conor Garvey into his side earlier this year, many thought that his emboldened approach would backfire.
But the opposite proved to be the case. The newcomers not only blended swiftly into the side but provided a challenge to the older hands to maintain and indeed improve their own form.
And with his side having played twice at Croke Park this year already, McCartan has no concerns that his players might freeze against the Lily Whites.
“I think some people believed I was taking a gamble when I brought these boys in and maybe I was. But I wanted to freshen things up and try and develop my own way of playing. The boys have responded well and I have no doubt that they will be very much up for the task both mentally and physically,” insists McCartan.
Indeed, Down veteran Benny Coulter subscribes enthusiastically to the view that the newcomers have “absolutely no fear” of losing.
“I suppose you could say that some of us who have been around for a few years are more wary and anxious because of past failures but the new boys have no hang-ups like that. They are just mad keen to get out and do the business and they are setting the tone for the rest of us because of their attitude,” says Coulter.
Martin Clarke’s influence as playmaker, Kalum King’s increasingly authoritative role in midfield, Mark Poland’s creative flair at centrethreequarters and Conor Garvey’s combative approach in the half-back line have served to underpin Down’s rampant charge into the semi-finals.
But McCartan is keen to underline that past performance is no guarantee of future success.
“We will be starting from scratch on Sunday. This is a high-pressure game in which we need a good start and then we must keep going until the end. Anything less will not do. I know these boys have played against Armagh in the Division Two final at Croke Park and again in that quarter-final win over Kerry but we are taking nothing for granted in terms of Sunday’s game, that’ for sure,” warns McCartan.