Forward thinking so crucial to Down’s game plan
When Down manager James McCartan sits down tonight to finalise his team to meet Fermanagh on Sunday, he will surely reflect on the influence a target man in attack can wield in the Ulster Championship.
Ironically, two of the outstanding displays in the competition to date in this role have been by players — Cavan’s Eugene Keating and Antrim’s Michael Magill — whose sides actually lost their matches.
Yet while Keating and Magill have served to illuminate an otherwise insipid Championship so far, two even higher profile target men have been forced to take a back seat — and they will be joined by another on Sunday.
Michael Murphy did not start in Donegal’s clash with Cavan while Monaghan’s Paul Finlay lasted just 26 minutes against Antrim before retiring with a shoulder injury.
Now Down will go into battle against Fermanagh on Sunday without the injured Benny Coulter and this could see McCartan dispense with a route one policy.
While Down possess pacey, accurate inside forwards in Conor Lavery, Conor Maginn and Donal O’Hare, there is no ready-made target man to step into Coulter’s distinguished shoes.
Arthur McConville is perhaps an option, so too is Kalum King, but the former may be included on the right flank while the latter looks certain to be named as midfield partner to Ambrose Rogers.
McConville, strong and durable, normally features at midfield for his club Clonduff but has been deployed in attack this year at county level.
Given the lack of a ready-man target man, McCartan is likely to go with a two-man inside line, placing the emphasis on pace and penetration.
Assuming Danny Hughes is fit, he will join the in-form Mark Poland and Aidan Carr in an extremely potent half-forward line.