Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

McCartan keen to make Down fit for purpose

Down manager James McCartan
James McCartan

Down boss James McCartan has yet to meet with county board officials to review the season which ended with the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo but this is not stopping him from trying to re-build the management team for 2013.

And within the next 24 hours the Mourne county expects to learn if Martin McElkennon, one of Ulster’s top fitness experts, will come on board.

McElkennon recently completed two years as trainer to Meath during Seamus McEnaney’s term as manager, both having parted company with the Royals following the All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Laois.

Now the Ballygawley-based McElkennon, a father of four, would appear to be top of Down’s shopping list.

But McElkennon revealed last night that he is “considering deeply” the implications of linking up Down.

“To be honest, it was hard going in Meath not just because of the travel but because of what I sensed to be an undercurrent of unease there,” said McElkennon.

“I think much of this was precipitated by former players and it certainly made Seamus McEnaney’s job difficult,” said McElkennon.

“Seamus brought eight new players into the side and gave one hundred per cent to the job but you always felt that this was never going to be enough to please certain parties within the county. There always seemed to be murmurings although nothing was said outright to either of us.”

McElkennon has vast experience of working with county squads but is quick to accept that the game has moved on “at an almost unbelievable pace” within the past five years.

Prior to fulfiling his role with Meath and Monaghan, McElkennon had spent three years with Cavan, a year with Fermanagh and three years with Derry.

“That all amounts to quite a period of time during which gaelic football has evolved. Meath might be living in the past to some extent but Down are not as is shown by the manner in which they reached the 2010 All Ireland final, in which they were very unlucky to lose out to Cork,” said McElkennon.

McElkennon has stressed, though, that his experiences in Meath will not influence any decision he might arrive at in relation to the Down invite.

“Obviously I have been on the road a long time with county teams. I have a young family and I also have my business as a personal trainer to think about — I can’t neglect that. I have to weigh up all the pros and cons,” added McElkennon.

Paddy Tally has trained Down for the past two years but left along with Brian McIver when McCartan decided to restructure his backroom team.

Since then McIver has taken over as the new manager of his native Derry and one of his first tasks was to confirm Tally as the team trainer.

Tally, of course, trained the Tyrone team which landed the county's first All-Ireland senior title in 2003.

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