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Benny Coulter is relishing chance to repeat history

By Declan Bogue

Benny Coulter has good cause to recall the last time Down played Kildare in Championship football.

Yesterday morning's Round 2 draw of the qualifiers has pitted Down against the Lillywhites on July 12 in Newry, and it immediately brings back memories of the titanic All-Ireland semi-final they played in 2010.

Coulter flicked a high ball to the net, and at the time it put Down on the way to victory by stretching their lead to four points.

It also caused him to leapfrog his good friend, Armagh's Stevie McDonnell, as the leading Championship goalscorer from Ulster, bringing his tally to 19.

While it was later shown by television replays to be a square ball, Coulter is quick to remind us of Eamon Callaghan's goal in response, where: "Your man took 12 or 13 steps."

After Sunday's facile win over a depleted Leitrim side, the 33-year-old admits that the visit of Kildare will get their competitive juices flowing.

"It's what we want, it's a game that we probably need at this stage of the season.

"It's a tough game against Kildare and it will go right down to the wire," the Mayobridge man maintains.

Missing a number of players who departed for America and left the panel after defeat in the Connacht Championship, Leitrim offered little in their 21-point defeat.

After the game, Coulter was driving home to Mayobridge along with fellow players when the conversation turned to who they might get in the next round.

"Obviously you want to stay away from the Ulster teams," he points out.

"I didn't care who we got but I was saying you might be as well to get Kildare as anyone.

"At least you would get a bit of credit for beating them, but you would get no credit for beating the likes of Clare in Newry."

Lining out at wing-forward was also a pleasant experience for Coulter, who admits his frustration at facing modern-day massed defences as an inside-forward.

"I really enjoyed that because I was going into the game saying to myself 'I am in control of what I do here, I am in control of how well I play,'" he described.

"Sometimes inside, in a blanket defence, you just can't control how well you are going to play.

"Out around the middle, going into the game I was very confident about how well I could perform myself because I knew it was all in my hands and in my control."

As a wing-forward who was assisting the defence, he also was a viable option for receiving kickouts, given his experience as a midfielder for his club.

And, just to allay the fears of some that would point to his birth certificate as something to prevent him performing these duties, he second-guesses their concerns.

"People would ask questions if I could do that role, but I have a decent enough brain and I can drop back and hold in defence," he explained.

"Just because I have been a forward all my career doesn't mean I cannot read a game and I know where to be and know where to stand at the right time."

Down had to go back to the last visit of Leitrim in 2011 to their last home game in the Championship, but now they are preparing for their third game so far this summer in Newry.

Meanwhile, the Round 2B qualifier featuring Tyrone against the losers of Armagh and Monaghan has not been granted a set date and time.

Should Armagh lose, then the game could be fixed for July 12 in Healy Park, as are the other fixtures, on the same day the Twelfth celebrations for county Tyrone are held in Omagh.

However, should Monaghan provide the opposition instead, the game would be hosted by Monaghan. An announcement is expected to be released in due course.

Belfast Telegraph

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