Daniel McCartan shared in Down’s majestic surge into the All-Ireland football final under the baton of older brother James and now finds himself within striking distance of an Ulster Club Championship final appearance with his club Burren.
Yet while he continues to enhance his reputation as one of the best defenders in the province, he would willingly sacrifice some of his personal progress just to see his younger brother Eoin reclaim his starting place in the Down and Burren line-ups.
Not too many players have endured the protracted agony that Eoin has suffered because of recurring injuries yet his current commitment to Burren’s cause is, in Daniel’s words, “utterly fantastic given his predicament.”
While Daniel will stride out in the No 3 shirt to face Crossmaglen in Sunday’s Ulster Club semi-final, Eoin will again be among the substitutes in the dug-out hoping to get a few minutes of action just as he did in the closing stages of the team’s handsome 1-12 to 0-5 quarter-final victory over Derry champions Coleraine last Sunday.
And while Daniel himself has served a term of suspension this year and has had to forego a trip to New York with the Down squad in order to make himself available for Sunday’s semi-final, he views these as minor irritants compared to the frustration that Eoin has endured.
“I make no bones about it — Eoin is 10 times the footballer that I will ever be. It’s terrible that because of his injury problems he can’t play a full match.
“Yet look at the impact he continues to make when he comes off the bench for a few minutes. He trains on his own, he never complains and he’s always prepared to go through the pain barrier in order to have some small part in Burren’s campaign,” states Daniel.
“I have to be honest and say that any medals I have ever won at any level, including the Sigerson Cup we won with Queen’s, it was Eoin who pulled the strings for the rest of us. That’s the kind of player he is — someone who brings out the best in others.”
And he adds: “To be honest, Eoin leads a lonely life. We have a gym at the house and he spends most of his spare time in there trying to build up his stamina. He realises that while county football has passed him by, he can still make a contribution at club level. He shows tremendous commitment and is an inspiration.
“In the Down final we were in danger of getting beaten in the closing stages but he came on and helped to get us over the line.
“We know he will be there again on Sunday and when you are going in against a side of the calibre of Crossmaglen you certainly need inspirational players like Eoin to call upon in the closing stages.
“I’ve no doubt he will answer the call in style but just the same it would be a massive boost to have him in our starting line-up.”