Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Down were left a mountain to climb: James McCartan

Hard luck story: Dejected Down ace Brendan McArdle
Hard luck story: Dejected Down ace Brendan McArdle

Sometimes you just have to feel sympathy in this game.

Down manager James McCartan slumps against a wall, surrounded by a half-moon of reporters while players from Tyrone and Down shuffle out behind the narrow gap, their demeanour largely the same.

But the fight and pugnacious attitude that had McCartan saying 'bring it on' about the replay six days before has deserted him.

A heavy defeat in front of a home crowd, the uninviting prospect of the back door some way off yet.

Who would be a manager?

He disagrees when we said we were waiting for a big bounce out of Down at the start of the second half.

"As fate would have it they hit us with a sucker punch straight away and left us with a mountain to climb," he said.

"We still kept plugging away...to be honest, you guys can make up your own opinion but I thought the scoreboard was a bit cruel to us in the end, it didn't reflect the game."

If we are permitted to have our own opinions, then that is a bit of a stretch. Down passed on their penalty and Tyrone also hit the woodwork twice in the second half.

By the end, hitting long balls into the edge of the square for Dan Gordon – appearing in his first Championship game in two years – was their only hope. And they got nothing out of that.

McCartan can be animated at times on the sideline and one incident, when Ronan McNabb dragged Donal O'Hare to the floor by his jersey, deserved a black card.

It was missed or ignored by the match officials, sending McCartan into a hopping rage. By the finish, he had made peace with it.

"I'm sure both managers felt the same way," he said.

"When you see things happening off the ball and, in fairness, the referee and linesmen can't have eyes in the back of their head, it's impossible for them to see all."

For now, the qualifiers loom.

"Our boys are dejected," said McCartan. "But I still think there's a lot that can be garnered over the last two games to bring into the qualifiers.

"We've plenty of time now and we'll re-group."

And well they might, for they have had considerable fine evenings through the back door, unpalatable as it might seem right now.

"We've been fairly decent in the qualifiers alright," 'Wee James' acknowledged.

"But we got a cruel draw last year (they had to go back to Celtic Park to play Derry after beating them in Ulster).

"Everyone's looking for a home draw anyway, that'd be good for us."

In the meantime, more blue-collar duties await the players.

"Players are back to club games on Monday night and another set on Friday," he revealed.

"The demands of club football go on in Down, it's very strong in Down and we have to work down it but in fairness to the clubs they've been very good in releasing players to us down through the years."

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