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Dr McKenna Cup: McCartan demands pride in Down shirt

By John Campbell

Down manager James McCartan has challenged his side to rediscover their pride when they take on Derry in the first of the Power NI Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals at the Morgan Athletic Grounds, Armagh on Sunday (2pm).

McCartan, a dual All-Ireland winner (1991 and 1994), never shirked a challenge during an illustrious playing career that secured his status as one of the greatest forwards in the sport.

And that’s why his team’s inept showing against St Mary’s University College on Wednesday night left him fuming.

“It was nothing short of putrid,” asserts McCartan.

“There was no passion and we were very wasteful throughout the game.”

Now he wants his side to prove their true worth against an unbeaten Derry outfit which is showing the appetite and desire to retain the trophy they won by beating Tyrone in last year’s decider.

“This semi-final against Derry will afford us the chance to rekindle a bit of pride and give our supporters something to shout about. It’s the least we can do,” adds McCartan, always someone who calls a spade a spade.

Having put virtually all his players under the microscope, McCartan is inching towards what he hopes will prove a coherent side for the National League.

He is still without four of his best defenders — Kevin McKernan, Declan Rooney, Damien Rafferty and Conor Garvey — while some top players will be re-joining his squad when they have eventually completed their |McKenna Cup commitments with their various university sides.

If the game against St Mary’s caused McCartan (pictured) considerable frustration, then the competition overall has thrown up some encouraging features.

Kalum King, normally a midfielder, has scored three goals from his new position of full-forward; Marcus Miskelly and Ryan Brady have made an impact as livewire attacking aces; Ambrose Rogers is regaining full match fitness rapidly; and Liam Doyle is revealing the poise and authority that marked his play prior to the serious cruciate ligament injury which he sustained over a year ago.

“There are good signs but we need to be the complete package for the league if we can,” says McCartan.

“The McKenna Cup semi-final against Derry is important in this context.”

Oak Leaf manager John Brennan has overseen three successive victories this month but believes that his team have a lot more to offer.

“We are gradually getting people back on board and that’s a big help,” says Brennan.

“We made more changes for the game against Donegal in midweek and players have been responding well.

“Last year at times we had a very depleted squad and I want to try and avoid that happening this year.”

Conleith Gilligan is replicating the form he showed last year, John McCamley is maturing at midfield, Chrissy McKaigue has settled back into the side following his experience of Australian Rules football and Caolan O’Boyle is cementing the belief that he is one of the best finishers in the province.

Brennan makes no secret of his desire to see Derry hold onto their trophy.

“I would be very glad to see us winning silverware again,” adds Brennan.

“Winning games is a very good habit to acquire no matter at what stage of the season this might take place.”

Belfast Telegraph

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