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Ex-Saffrons boss Frank Dawson in pole position to take helm at Down

By Declan Bogue

Published 20/10/2015

Favourite: Frank Dawson is widely tipped to be the next Down senior football manager
Favourite: Frank Dawson is widely tipped to be the next Down senior football manager

Down are set to name their new senior football manager this week, and although the identity has been kept top secret, Under-21 manager Frank Dawson has emerged as the front-runner.

An inside source has confirmed that rumours linking Paddy O'Rourke with a return to the position of senior team manager are inaccurate.

Captain of the 1991 All-Ireland winning side, O'Rourke is currently heavily involved in the county development squads and has no plans to switch roles.

It was also felt that former Kilmacud Crokes manager, and another member of the successful teams of the '90s, Conor Deegan may have been considered, but that is wide of the mark.

Another possible combination of names mooted is Mickey Linden, along with his Mayobridge clubmate Michael Walsh.

Dawson, who managed his native Antrim for the 2013 season before stepping down, has worked with a number of clubs in Down over the last decade.

He brought Burren to an Ulster club title, spent some time with Longstone and has also managed the Mourne senior hurlers in the past.

Last Sunday, he delivered the county league title with Bryansford, beating Burren on a scoreline of 1-10 to 1-7, and later stepped down as manager.

It would seem the path is being cleared to name Dawson as manager later in the week.

Meanwhile, Down stalwart Mark Poland has confirmed that he is ready and willing to continue his county career in 2016.

Poland suffered a freak injury prior to the Division Two final against Roscommon at Croke Park this season, when a stray ball struck him directly in his eye, forcing his withdrawal from the game.

Poland said: "To be honest, the way last year went, I was in two minds. But I played good football with the club there at the end of the year and I am just ticking away on my own, doing a bit in the gym and that.

"If a new manager comes in, whoever that may be, and he wants me to be part of the panel, I will be there."

And he maintains that there is sufficient talent within the Mourne county to mount a credible challenge for honours in 2016.

Even before they make a managerial appointment, they potentially are going to benefit from a return to county action of Marty Clarke, while Caolan Mooney has had a year to get back into the swing of Gaelic football, having spent three years with Collingwood in the AFL.

"I have always said it, there are good players in Down. It's just getting them together," the Longstone player said.

"If you go through the amount of players that Down have gone through… I think I sat down one time with another man over a coffee. And in James' five years I think he used 92 players!

"There is no other county can say they have done that. When Donegal were winning their All-Ireland, they used about 18 players.

"There is nobody can tell me they have competed the way Down have with so many changes in personnel. I think that was overlooked when James was the manager too."

He added: "I definitely think, in 2010 and that, if we had have held onto the same panel we would have been there or thereabouts for three years. There was a lot of players that came in and done well in that space of time as well so it just shows you, it's just about getting everybody there together and singing off the same hymn sheet."

Poland also rejected the notion that Down have been at a severe disadvantage, given that they haven't been drawn to play their first game in Ulster since Antrim visited Newry in 1999.

"At the end of the day, once you take to the pitch it doesn't really matter where you are playing in my eyes," he said.

"It's more down to supporters and becomes a factor with the cost to families who have to travel here, there and everywhere, where it's handier when games are on your doorstep.

"I suppose the GAA should come up with something that makes it fair, that every side gets a fair crack of whip as such, by having a home game every other year."

Belfast Telegraph

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