Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Down captain Rooney sets his sights on ‘massive test’

Declan Rooney knows all about the ups and downs of inter-county football.

The former Down captain has had more than his share of injury heartbreak lately to accompany the frustration engenderd by a lack of real progress at Championship level in recent seasons.

But the 25-year-old Burren clubman is today focussed on what he views as “a massive test” for Down on Sunday when they face Fermanagh in the big Ulster Championship opener.

Rooney’s versatility in defence has been a source of comfort to Ross Carr when he has been fully fit in the past and it’s hardly surprising that the Mourne boss is now rather more confident of his rearguard’s efficiency given the player’s current level of fitness and enthusiasm.

With the authoritative Liam Doyle still out of action, Carr has rather less experience at his disposal at the back than he would like but nonetheless he is not given to lamenting his resources.

“We have players in there who have served us well during the National League and we have others chomping at the bit for action,” says Carr.

“We know that a win on Sunday would erase any of the disappointment still being felt within the county following our slip-up against

Tipperary in the Division Three final. Now in his fourth year in charge, he is conscious that his team’s progress will come under the closest scrutiny from demanding fans who have grown tired of false dawns.

“Obviously all managers are judged on what their teams do in the Championship.

“You have to go with the hand with which you are dealt.

“I’m happy enough with the players that are available to me and I’m particularly pleased that we have people like Declan Rooney, Ambrose Rodgers and Kevin McKernan back.

“ These are all solid performers who can bolster our squad,” maintains Carr.

The ability of the Down attack to chalk up scores when provided with a reasonable degree of possession is not in doubt - it’s the team’s defensive capacity to hold firm for the greater part of a championship match that is something of a worry.

But Carr’s faith in players like Declan Rooney is likely to be repaid handsomely on Sunday - unless, that is, Fermanagh suddenly find the extra gear which has eluded them to date this year.

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