It could be said that the gods have not quite been smiling on Down manager James McCartan since the new season got under way on January 6.
His team overcame Cavan and Armagh in the Power NI McKenna Cup but without carrying any real degree of conviction.
And it was against Monaghan in the semi-finals that Down’s defensive frailties were exposed, particularly when Darren Hughes was afforded time and space to fire over two late long-range points to ease his side to victory.
But if a brittle rearguard and the continued absence of the battle-hardened Ambrose Rogers, Danny Hughes, Liam Doyle and Dan Gordon leave him bereft of a strong ration of steel and skill for his team’s opening league game against in-form Tyrone on Saturday, McCartan can take consolation from the fact that Keith Quinn restricted his safari to the United States.
The Mayobridge clubman had only just forced his way into the Down side when he decided to head off across the Atlantic, a move that McCartan could only then construe as another blow to his team-building efforts.
However, Quinn certainly did not overstay his welcome in New York. The lure of the Mournes proved too great although he was rather surprised to find a red carpet welcome awaiting him on his return — with McCartan overseeing the exercise, too.
An injury may have slightly delayed his re-introduction, but when he lined up against Monaghan in the Dr McKenna Cup he fulfilled the role that would have normally been handed to a fully-fit Danny Hughes.
The combative Quinn may have finished on the losing side but he nonetheless hopes to play a part in helping his county to become re-acquainted with silverware. Like all Down players of comparatively recent vintage he has nothing to show for his endeavours in the inter-county arena.
“It’s good to be back and to be part of the Down set-up,” he said.
“When I got into the side initially I was delighted and then I decided to travel. But now I am back in the routine with the squad and we are looking forward to meeting Tyrone on Saturday in the league.”
Quinn is likely to be included in the Down team at left-half-forward against the Red Hands with McCartan hoping he can perhaps replicate the all-action style of the long-serving Hughes.
Down enjoyed spells of dominance against Monaghan but were unable to post sufficient scores to leave Malachy O’Rourke’s men in their slipstream.
It’s hardly surprising then that McCartan has been driving home the message that chances have to be taken against Mickey Harte’s fired-up side on Saturday.
“We know the importance of getting off on the right foot in what will be a hugely competitive Division One,” said the boss.
“We are aware that we have been criticised on occasions for our defensive vulnerability but we also need to make sure that as well as keeping things tight at the back we also get forward and take our scores.”