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All Ireland Football Championship: Down boss James McCartan has Ronan Murtagh in mind

A matter of weeks ago Ronan Murtagh was in sporting limbo having exited the Down squad along with Stephen Kearney.

It was then thought that Murtagh, a busy plastering sub-contractor, wished to give more time to his business.

But the Ballyholland clubman was subsequently prevailed upon to return to the county set-up and suddenly from being consigned to oblivion he could now find himself in line to perhaps pocket an All Ireland medal.

It was shortly after re-joining the Mourne squad that Murtagh was introduced as a substitute in the qualifier win over Sligo and made an immediate impact by scoring 1-5 in a blistering 20-minute spell that helped Down mount their impressive 3-20 total.

And when Murtagh again got his name on the scoresheet as a substitute in the All Ireland quarter-final against Kerry along with Peter Fitzpatrick and Conor Maginn who also came off the bench, he had reinforced the message that a starting place in Sunday’s semi-final against Kildare was top of his shopping list.

Yet while manager James McCartan may again opt to hold Murtagh in reserve in the knowledge that his experience, craft and scoring touch could prove invaluable assets in the crucial last quarter of the tie, the player himself is ready to undertake whatever role he is handed.

“Obviously it’s good to be back in the squad. Competition for places is keen and I understand that. Everyone wants to play a part and I am just working away in training in the hope that I might get some game time,” states Murtagh.

He has given valuable service to Down over the years and believes that the current squad has the capacity to reach the All Ireland final — a feeling that is shared by all the squad although McCartan is striving to keep a lid on the huge sense of expectation that has engulfed the whole county.

“We don’t want us to get too caught up in the hype. I would rather see Kildare making all the headlines at this point in time. Indeed, this would make me very happy,” reflects McCartan.

“But I suppose the interest that matches such as Sunday’s create makes it inevitable that the media will be talking and writing it up big-time.”

Belfast Telegraph