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Classy Coulter gives McCartan a timely boost

By John Campbell

Scarcely had Down manager James McCartan committed himself to his role for another three years than he was served with an early bonus.

A majestic performance in the rather unusual role of midfield by Benny Coulter not only helped to fashion a runaway 4-15 to 1-10 county championship semi-final win for Mayobridge over Longstone, but convinced McCartan that the long-serving talisman still has much to offer in the red and black jersey.

Coulter’s mesmerising fielding, clever distribution and subtle use of space not only shattered Longstone’s title ambitions, but projected his own team into pole position for the county title.

The vastly experienced Coulter, still awaiting a first Ulster Championship medal with Down after over a decade at the coal face, is treading cautiously as he awaits yet another domestic final appearance.

“It was great to get that win over Longstone, but to be honest we might have been a bit flattered. It had been tight enough in the first-half, but we maybe had things our own way afterwards and that stood to us,” says Coulter.

“The goals, of course, helped to make a big difference.”

McCartan, who is already getting down to business for next year, naturally knows all that there is to know about Coulter.

“Benny is Benny” he smiles. “He just goes out and does the business year after year. In the process he is showing the younger guys just what it takes to make it at the higher level.”

Longstone had entered the semi-final fuelled by ambition following their quarter-final win over last year’s champions Burren, who were actually going for a hat-trick of titles, but in the event they found themselves out of their depth against a reinvigorated Mayobridge side who clearly have designs on glory.

They will meet Kilcoo in the decider knowing that a ninth crown within a 12-year period is well within their gambit, but acutely conscious of the fact that it was Jim McCorry’s side that interrupted their dominance of the county scene by lifting the title in 2009.

The teams are on different planets in terms of championship tradition, though.

Whereas Mayobridge were going for their sixth title on the trot when halted in their tracks by Kilcoo three years ago, their opponents were only getting their hands on the trophy for the first time since 1937.

Mayobridge may have enjoyed their excursion into cruise control against Longstone, but Kilcoo boss McCorry, who formerly played for Armagh with considerable distinction, will be seeking a step-up from his side after they flirted with danger in their semi-final against Bryansford before getting over the line by just a point (1-11 to 0-13).

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