All Ireland: The past masters driving Down Mourne men on
Down manager James McCartan is not the type of person who requires any additional motivation when it comes to plotting success for his side.
The incentive of providing a blueprint for victory is in itself sufficient to ensure that the former double All Ireland winner maximises his talents in the best interests of his county.
But the fact that the great Down side of 1960/61 have been lavishly feted not once but twice within the past ten days will surely have struck a chord with the current county team boss.
It was firstly at Croke Park and then at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones at half-time in the Ulster final showdown between Tyrone and Monaghan on Sunday last that the heroes of the early 60s were honoured to mark the golden jubilee of their All Ireland triumph when they became the first side to take the Sam Maguire Cup across the border.
Those 1960 and ’61 coups have particular resonance for McCartan as his father James and uncle Dan were pillars in that history-making outfit.
Now as James jnr prepares for tomorrow’s crucial All Ireland qualifier against Sligo at Kingspan Breffni Park he is naturally hopeful that his players will derive further inspiration from the giants of yesteryear.
“Obviously Down have a proud history but we have to deal with the present,” says McCartan.
“We are coming up against a Kildare side that has got three victories in succession and whose confidence will be fairly high.”
And if his own team have claimed the modest scalps of Longford and Offaly, this has not
been achieved without some degree of difficulty.
“We got off to a bad start last weekend against Offaly and I found myself with gaps to plug,” said McCartan.
“Things were certainly not going right for us and it was not until well into the second-half that we began to look a bit more comfortable.”
There is still a doubt surrounding the fitness of Daniel Hughes for tomorrow.
But the impressive form of Mark Poland at centre-half-forward, the creativity and finishing of Martin Clarke and another authoritative display from the consistent Dan Gordon at full-back eventually helped to cement Down’s far from comprehensive success over Offaly.
Unsurprisingly, McCartan will look to these players to set the template for what he hopes will be a more complete Down performance against a Sligo side that was expected to lift the Connacht title at Roscommon’s expense last Sunday, particularly as they had beaten Joe Kernan’s Galway at the semi-final stage, but instead floundered at the finish. Their manager Kevin Walsh, a former All Ireland winner with Galway, has promised a more committed display against the Mournemen.
And with Eamonn O’Hara, Charlie Harrison, Mark Brehony, Adrian Marron and David Kelly to give a lead he is hopeful that his side can get back in a winning groove again.