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Down manager James McCartan facing selection headache

By John Campbell

Down manager James McCartan suddenly finds himself confronted by interesting selection options for the forthcoming All-Ireland qualifier against Kildare.

Not only that but the Mourne outfit may be considerably beefed up for their mission against the Lily Whites.

The performances of Michael Cunningham, Niall Donnelly and Ciaran McCartan in the facile win over Leitrim at the weekend have provided the manager with food for thought.

Donnelly proved a more than capable deputy for the injured Brendan McArdle at full-back while McCartan distinguished himself at centre-half-back and Cunningham is putting even more pressure on recognised first-choice goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh with Shane Harrison, who is currently injured, another contender for the No 1 shirt.

Some former players and indeed several county board officials have been of the opinion that Down do not possess the muscular physicality of other teams and suggest this is a reason why they have not tasted success in the championship.

But now it would seem that Down have bulked-up considerably especially when it is considered that players like Kevin McKernan, Dan Gordon, Peter Turley, Conor Garvey, Niall Madine and Benny Coulter still have key roles in the team.

Kalum King is still an absentee, though, but Down are preparing to face Kildare against a backcloth of optimism.

"We know that Kildare hit back against Meath on Sunday in the Leinster semi-final before losing out so they will be a dangerous animal when they come to us," warns Down chairman Seamus Walsh.

"The fact that new players have come in and not only played well but showed that they can bring a physical presence is a double bonus as far as we are concerned.

"It has been said that Down sides traditionally tend to be small and light but the shape of the present team is being altered.

"The sport is more physically testing now with a huge emphasis on stamina. There is optimism surrounding the game against Kildare but there is not the slightest element of complacency."

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