Eleven years ago Benny Coulter won an All Ireland minor medal with Down.
The world it seemed was his oyster, but nothing in sport can be taken for granted.
Twice he has been honoured with trips Down Under with the Ireland International Rules side and he’s also enjoyed success with his club Mayobridge.
But he still awaits the opportunity of getting his hands on the sport’s bigger prizes. It’s not hard to detect the frustration of an immensely gifted player.
“Every time the Championship comes around you always hope and pray that it’s going to be your year. I’ve been doing that for the last 11 years now, looking out for the Championship draw and hoping for the best,” he said.
“I’m not like some of the supporters in that I would like to believe I’m a wee bit more realistic.
“I’ve loved every minute of my career despite the obvious disappointments. I would love nothing better than to get a medal of some sort, but it’s getting harder all the time and time is beginning to run out.”
Coulter has vivid recall of Down’s last Championship assignment with Donegal in Ballybofey.
Four years ago the Mourne men were well on top approaching half-time until a Donegal goal changed the whole complexion of the match. It was nip and tuck for the best part of the second half only for the visitors to squander a late opportunity to level the match.
“We played them there earlier this season in the league so it’s not as if we’re heading into the unknown. The pitch itself is very tight and compact, but it was good to get a run out there.”
Coulter wisely refuses to read too much into his team’s league final defeat by Armagh.
“Had we won that game it would have papered over a few cracks, but the defeat hasn’t impacted on morale. But we’ll head to Ballybofey in an upbeat mood. The reality is that we’ve lost just one league match and the mood in the camp couldn’t be better,” he said.
Coulter has been around long enough to offer a detached view of what the future holds and he believes losing to Armagh in the league final may yet have long- term benefits.
All year, manager James McCartan has tried to keep a lid on the huge expectations sweeping through the Mournes. Coulter can but shake his head in disbelief.
“Before we played Armagh you had supporters talking about us winning All Irelands. Stupid. It’s all silly talk. There are some good lads coming through, but it’s always a big step up from minors, no matter how good you are,” he said.
The return of Martin Clarke from Aussie Rules has given the Mourne men a much needed boost and Coulter is delighted.
“He’s a great man to have, a great playmaker. He’s big and strong and his return has added so much to the side,” Coulter added.