Down ace Caolan Mooney gets his big chance to shine
From the hurly-burly of Australian Rules Football to the high-intensity of the Allianz League. That's the transformation that Caolan Mooney has made in recent weeks and on Sunday the Down ace will take another significant step in his career path when he makes a home start in the vital promotion battle against Laois at Pairc Esler, Newry.
The former St Colman's College, Newry star - he won two MacRory Cup medals as well as two Hogan Cup medals with his alma mater in 2010 and 2011 - has been used mainly as a substitute recently by Mourne manager Jim McCorry but impressive performances from the bench now see him installed in an attack from which much will be expected following a tepid offering in the surprise 2-11 to 0-10 defeat to Meath last weekend.
Mooney had been expected to chart a course in the Australian Rules code after making the move Down Under in 2011 to link up with the Collingwood club.
He made four appearances in his debut season and played two further games in 2013 but his progress stalled last year and he was unable to add to his six-match tally.
He returned home last autumn and re-joined his club Rostrevor before receiving his call-up to the Down squad with which he had been briefly involved before leaving for Australia.
"I had hoped to get back into the Down panel when I returned and I am delighted to be part of the side now," says Mooney.
Since returning home the 22-year-old has certainly been honing his skills to good effect.
He brings pace, handling skills and a flair for invention to a side that has lost twice at home to date in the league and which simply cannot afford to surrender the points on Sunday.
"Caolan has won a starting place on merit as he has been making a big impact when coming off the bench lately and obviously he is getting a major chance to show what he can do on Sunday," says Down spokesman Paul Rooney.
"This is a huge match for us and it's great to have players of the calibre of Caolan to lean upon."
Laois, who have five points, will come to Pairc Esler desperate to land a win to stave off their relegation worries and although they have blown hot and cold to date, they are capable of producing a solid performance when their backs are against the wall.
Mooney's inclusion in the Down side is one of three changes which manager McCorry hopes will add bite to his line-up.
Darragh O'Hanlon makes way for Brendan McArdle at centre-half-back while Darren O'Hagan returns to the defence.
Arthur McConville, who has been impressive when brought on from the bench in matches so far, could again be sprung into action.
The return of McArdle is seen as a considerable bonus. The experienced defender has picked up a couple of minor injuries lately which have disrupted his involvement, but his coolness under pressure and ability to play in more than one defensive slot offer McCorry the hope that his team's resistance will be robust on Sunday. His chief concern will be to see Mooney and co take their scoring chances.
"We shot 14 wides against Meath and we can't afford to do that again otherwise we will be in trouble," insists McCorry.
"Meath had physical power and we can't let ourselves be bossed by Laois. We need to get to grips with the game early on."
Down (v Laois): S Kane; G Collins, L Howard, D Turley; D O'Hagan, B McArdle, C McGovern; P Turley, P Devlin; C Maginn, K McKernan, M Poland; C Laverty, C Mooney, D O'Hare.
Tyrone (v Kerry): N Morgan; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, Justin McMahon, P Harte; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; T McCann, M Donnelly, R McKenna; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey.
Monaghan (v Dublin): R Beggan; K Duffy, D Wylie, R Wylie; F Kelly, V Corey, K O'Connell; N McAdam, D Hughes; D Mone, P Finlay, O Duffy; D Malone, K Hughes, C McManus.