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Down boss reeling as Fitzpatrick jumps ship

By John Campbell

Down manager James McCartan has been dealt another blow now that talented young midfield ace Peter Fitzpatrick has emigrated to Australia.

The Ballymartin clubman, who is just 22, saw regular action for the Mourne county this year in the absence of skipper Ambrose Rogers and seemed destined for a long-term career at inter-county level.

But his decision to seek a new life Down Under, coming on the heels of exits by Martin Clarke, James Colgan and Caolan Mooney and the retirement of John Clarke, leaves manager McCartan with an additional headache.

Fitzpatrick (pictured below) initially captured the headlines at under-21 level and was a member of the side that was beaten in the All-Ireland final by Cork three years ago.

He had since gained useful experience, often as a substitute, in the senior side as partner to Kalum King and had looked certain to gain a starting place for the forthcoming McKenna Cup competition.

Now McCartan must go back to the drawing board although he will surely have taken some encouragement from the performances of Anto McArdle in Burren’s surge into the Ulster club final in which they lost to Crossmaglen Rangers on Sunday last.

McArdle, in midfield alongside Alan Higgins, has been one of Burren’s most consistent players this year and may merit attention from McCartan since Rogers, although having played regularly for his club Longstone towards the end of the season, has yet to re-appear in the Down jersey.

McArdle blotted his copybook by incurring a red card against Crossmaglen, his premature departure not surprisingly impacting adversely on his team’s

strategy. Downpatrick’s Peter Turley, who has been in the Down squad in the past but slipped off the radar because of work commitments, has been producing vintage form for his club this year and may now also earn a call-up to McCartan’s preliminary squad.

The Down manager is also likely to study his options at full-back more closely as this might allow him to move Dan Gordon up to midfield, a role in which he performed with distinction for the Mournemen for several years before his switch to the No 3 shirt last year when mounting when injuries forced a re-structuring of the defence.

McCartan is expected to take in tomorrow night’s Down All County League semi-final between Mayobridge and Burren in Newry, a match that had been deferred because of Burren’s involvement in the Ulster club series.

It is believed that Mayobridge veteran Benny Coulter has made a recovery from the hamstring injury that troubled him this year and along with Conor Garvey and Eoghan Woods he will bring considerable experience to the team.

Garvey is another Down player whose season was disrupted by injury and his absence from the defence was keenly felt this term while Burren’s Declan Rooney, who has captained Down in the past, is still out with a cruciate ligament injury.

Daniel McCartan, Gerard McCartan, Conal McGovern and James McGovern could prove key figures for Frank Dawson’s team.

The winners of tomorrow night’s game will go on to meet Kilcoo in the league final.

Belfast Telegraph

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