If Down manager James McCartan is keeping his fingers crossed that long-serving Benny Coulter will make the cut for his team’s Ulster Championship blockbuster against Armagh, then he is far from being alone.
It seems thousands of schoolchildren across the Mourne County have joined the more mature fans in following the progress of the Mayobridge clubman after the hamstring injury which he picked up recently.
And Down secretary Sean Og McAteer for one is not in the least surprised by this development.
“Since he became a full-time GAA schools coach with the county board over four years ago Benny has been an absolute revelation,” enthuses McAteer.
“Literally thousands of children have benefited and are continuing to benefit from his knowledge and skills, and it is no coincidence that our schools and under-age structures have been reaping the rewards of his endeavours.”
Coulter’s input into the schools sector is not only helping to create a new generation of players but also a fresh base of support for the county team.
“I’m told that all the talk in schools across the county right now is about just how our team will do against Armagh and this is coupled with the speculation surrounding Benny’s current fitness battle,” explains McAteer.
“He has been part of the fabric of Down sides for a decade and I would be very disappointed if he did not make the starting line-up against Armagh. He is such a great-hearted player and his experience would be invaluable.”
McAteer is convinced that Coulter’s ongoing contribution to Down, both as a coach and player, is “a decided blessing.”
And the Newry man suggests that Down’s failure to beat Cork in last year’s All-Ireland final will actually provide a further incentive for them to get their hands on silverware this time round.
“James McCartan made the point more than once following last year’s Championship that we had no trophy to show for what was Down’s best year since 1994 so now there is a burning desire to win either the Ulster title or the All-Ireland — or preferably both,” says McAteer.
He concedes though that the injuries which have limited Coulter’s preparations and the concerns over goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh and skipper Ambrose Rogers, who has just returned to club football after months on the sidelines, remain a big source of worry ahead of the clash at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday, May 28.