Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

McCartan driven by the fear of defeat

For weeks James McCartan has battled bravely to keep the lid on all the hype that threatened to scupper Down’s Allianz League campaign.

Every league victory increased the decibel level and the manager was powerless in his bid to bring a sense of perspective.

“We knew we weren’t as good as the media was making out,” said McCartan “We know we’re not going to win the 2010 All Ireland, but should we come up against one of the main contenders I would like to think we would have a say in it.”

He maintains that only a foolish man would look beyond Sunday’s clash in Ballybofey and an Ulster Championship quarter-final meeting with Donegal.

“All you can hope for is that you play to your full potential on the day, but I tend to look at the worst possible scenario and the worst thing that can happen is if we lose,” he said.

“In my own playing days it was n’t the elation of victory that drove me on, rather the fear of losing.

“I’ll be delighted if we get out of Ballybofey with a win, but it’s important you always keep things in perspective.

“Unless you actually win the All Ireland you are going to lose somewhere along the way so it’s vital you treat defeat and victory in equal measure.

“I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to surround myself with good people like Paddy Tally and Brian McIvor, who have made huge contributions so making my workload at least bearable.”

McCartan admits that the DVD of the league final defeat by Armagh was both painful and illuminating.

“We’ve had lots of time to reflect on the final and where things went wrong. The hope is that we learn and then move on. I was concerned that we managed to concede 17 points against Armagh while our scoring return was disappointingly low,” he said.

“We’re hope that defeat was just a wake up call and not an indication of where we stand in the pecking order.”

For now McCartan’s total focus is on Sunday’s match, but on a recent press day in the plush surrounds of the Canal Court in Newry, he was able to expand on what he regards as the best way forward for the Ulster Championship.

“I would hate to suffer the wrath of the GAA President,” he said with a broad smile.

“The GAA Championship is what it is. I was about to say it’s the same for everyone, but it’s not.

“It’s a strange sport we are involved in when our league competition is deemed to be lesser than the cup competition.

“If Portsmouth had beaten Chelsea in the FA Cup decider would that have made them the the best team in England?

“My own preferred formula for the Ulster Championship would be to have two groups of four and five, run on a Champions League basis. You would still have semi finals and a final and every county would be guaranteed three or four games.

“Imagine the revenue that would bring in and you could have a number of matches each Sunday instead of the current format of a single Championship match each Sunday.”

In many respects his views are close to those of the former Donegal star Martin McHugh, but they are likely to attract little if any support from the various provincial councils.

One thing’s for sure players, officials and supporters alike will be hoping that referees don’t again find themselves in the spotlight come Sunday afternoon.

Pat McEnaney showed what can be achieved by sensible refereeing and by referees who communicate with the players.

That is the way forward and referees have a crucial role to play in the weeks and months ahead if the sport isn’t to become totally immersed in controversy Sunday after Sunday.

It’s time the players again grabbed the sporting headlines allowing referees to fade into the background so allowing the game to thrive and prosper in the weeks ahead.

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