McCartan buoyed by declaration from senior Down stars
The pain which Down manager James McCartan is feeling following his team's relegation to Division Two has been eased somewhat by a declaration of intent on the part of several of his more established players in relation to the Ulster championship.
Benny Coulter, Aidan Carr, Conor Laverty, Brendan McVeigh, Daniel McCartan and Kevin McKernan are among those who fervently believe that the Mourne county can now atone for their league setback by coming to the fore in the championship.
Down will face Derry in a quarter-final tie at Celtic Park on June 2 that affords the potential for a restoration of credibility and long-serving forward Coulter, who has yet to share in an Ulster title success, believes that the team can meet this challenge.
"We beat Kildare in our last league game and although we will still be missing some players there is a feeling within the squad that we can give a good account of ourselves," maintains Coulter.
His sentiments are echoed by McKernan who, having become accustomed to playing at centre-half-back, instead partnered Kalum King at midfield over the course of the greater part of the league. "There was a good spirit within the side in that game against Kildare and if we can replicate the form we showed on that occasion against Derry I don't think we will be too far away," says McKernan.
"It would be terrific if we could get into the semi-finals where we would then meet either Tyrone or Donegal. But for the moment our total focus is on the game against Derry, that's all that matters to us."
McKernan helped to galvanise support for the side when he undertook a club marathon with a difference over the course of the weekend.
He visited every club in the county to take a penalty kick at each of them as part of his fund-raising drive to assist his cousin Mark who is ill and requires specialist medical treatment.
McKernan's club tour was under the 'Keep 'Er Lit' banner and he availed of the opportunity to meet and talk with supporters.
"The penalty marathon was probably aptly named as Kevin kicks to Keep 'Er Lit but I like to think that there is a big kick left in Down yet," said a smiling McKernan.
"I hope that the fans continue to show faith with us and I would like to think that we will repay this faith by our performance against Derry.
"They will be in the Division Two league final against Westmeath on Sunday which will give them an extra match under their belts before they meet us in the championship."