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Down can stand tall: Ray Morgan

Ray Morgan played football for Down, but he’s best remembered as the man with the Midas touch when it came to winning All Ireland club titles.

Titles of any description were a scarce commodity in the 70s and 80s. But the Newry man who taught for over 30 years in St Colman’s College defied the odds.

Twice in the 80s — 1986 and 1988 — he guided Burren to All Ireland club glory. Two of the players, Paddy O’Rourke and Brendan McKernan, would enjoy All Ireland success with Down only a matter of years later.

During his time at the helm with Burren he led the famous old club to two All Ireland club titles as well as four provincial titles.

“They were a very special group of players and while both Paddy O’Rourke and Brendan McKernan won All Ireland glory with the county in 1991 John (Shorty) Treanor was very unfortunate to miss out,” he said.

“Shorty was a fantastic club player and was worth at least a place in the squad.”

Down’s phoenix like rise from the wilderness has taken most observers by surprise, but Morgan, the wily old fox, is quick to draw a parallel with 2010 and 1991.

“When Down played Armagh in Newry in the opening round of the championship in 1991 Down won, but you wouldn’t have imagined them going much further,” said Morgan.

“They then drew with Derry, won the replay and never looked back.

“This year they didn’t exactly set the world alight against Donegal and while they played well against Tyrone in the early stages of the Ulster semi-final they fell away on the restart.

“But again they were able to respond and despite a few scares safely negotiated the qualifiers.

“James McCartan has always struck me as a very creative and inventive player and that’s reflected in the way his team plays.

“The game of football today is completely different from the way the game was played 10 years ago.

“It’s changed out of all recognition, some changes, others less so, it’s become far too much like basketball.

“The whole emphasis now is on retaining possession whereas in previous years there was a greater emphasis on getting the ball forward to players in space up front.”

Morgan, whose name for over three decades was synonymous with MacRory and Hogan Cup success in Violet Hill can see the Mourne men being crowned All Ireland champions.

But he warns that Cork have still to play to their full potential and that they are blessed with quality forwards. Against that he maintains they have some quality players throughout the side and more importantly they have great belief in their own ability.

“Down’s forward line, both individually and collectively, is playing with supreme confidence, getting better with each game and in the final analysis that just might make all the difference,” he said.

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