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McCartan bemoans Down's lethargic start against Kildare

By John Campbell

It is never easy for any manager to put his head above the parapet minutes after his team have been consigned to the wilderness.

But Down boss James McCartan, in revealing his customary courtesy and politeness, masked the hurt he was undoubtedly feeling as he assessed a team performance that could well be the last under his watch.

The flame of hope still flickered in the third quarter but when Kildare discovered previously latent reserves of power, invention and confidence, it was over and out for the Mournemen – a fact conceded by their manager.

"I suppose we played scintillating stuff for 15 minutes at the start of the second half but that's not going to win you enough championship matches," he mused.

"We have to give credit to Kildare, they weathered the storm and obviously won pulling up at the end. We're disappointed that when the game was in the mix, there was a call about a point.

"There was a couple of points in it but I suppose when you lose by the margin we did, it's hard to look back and blame one particular incident. It is disappointing."

Down's inability to make an impact in the first half when their first score from play did not come until the 35th minute had a big bearing on the outcome and McCartan agreed that the team had left themselves facing into an uphill battle.

"We didn't get into it, the performance was very poor and we were disappointed with that at half time," he revealed.

"If we had repeated that in the second half, we would have been limping out of the championship without a fight.

"We asked them to go out with at least a fight. We played tremendous stuff for 15 minutes but somewhere along the line, the momentum went and Kildare came back. We stopped scoring."

It was veteran forward Benny Coulter who almost single-handedly arrested Kildare's dictatorship in the third quarter but a lack of supply proved detrimental to his chances of heaping more damage on the Kildare defence.

"We put him up there at full-forward, we had to change some things. He was in his old position and we put some fear into their defence. But the ball then dried up," sighed McCartan.

In his first year in charge in 2010 he took Down into the All-Ireland final. Since then, the team have been unable to make a decisive impact in either the Ulster or All-Ireland championships.

But McCartan is remaining tight-lipped on his own future.

"You can ask that question another day," he said.

When that question is asked, the answer will more than likely spawn a new – but not necessarily more successful – era in Down football.

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