McCartan in fighting mood after late despair
Down manager James McCartan could be forgiven for wallowing in self-pity following his team's gut-wrenching defeat by Cork in the Allianz Football League Division One on Sunday.
After all, the Mourne side, on McCartan's own admission, played their best football during his tenure in that game only to be mugged by a "sucker punch last second goal", as he put it.
But although forced to stomach a third successive league setback, McCartan can scarcely wait to see his side go into action against last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo on Saturday night.
"It's sickening the way we lost that game to Cork but I am still going to heap praise on my players for the effort they put in," insists McCartan.
"There is no hiding place in Division One and we are in alongside marquee teams. "Now we will be welcoming Mayo, who are one such side, to Newry and this will be another challenge that will be laid down in front of my players. I don't think it will be a big problem to motivate them for this."
McCartan saw his team stage a dramatic last quarter recovery against Cork having conceded six points in a 10 minute spell immediately after the resumption and he believes that this fighting spirit can still prove a vital element in perhaps staving off relegation.
"Mayo have to come to us on our home patch and although we have lost to Tyrone and Cork we still feel we are a difficult side to play against in Newry and I think the boys will be ready for Saturday night," states McCartan.
Certainly against Tyrone, who have now gone unbeaten in eight matches since the start of the year, Down showed vigour, passion and skill in equal measure and were only outgunned in the latter stages when the Red Hands clinically closed out the game to win by three points.
Sunday's out of the blue Cork goal robbed Down of a victory they would have richly deserved and now McCartan feels his team can derive their just reward from the visit of Mayo who lost to Dublin at the weekend.
"Apart from a couple of errors, I could not have asked any more from my players against Cork," added McCartan. "We did a lot of things in that game that we set out to do. We felt that we had not kept the scoreboard ticking over in our previous two games and we remedied that and we also feel that we got our defensive strategy right."