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Down boss James McCartan may face exit

By John Campbell

The Down county board will meet shortly to analyse the Championship season but there is no indication yet that manager James McCartan will continue in his role.

McCartan took over in 2010 bringing Down into the All Ireland final that year when they were unlucky to lose out to Cork by a point (0-16 to 0-15) and since then silverware has proved elusive.

He suffered two of the biggest setbacks of his three-year term to date earlier this summer when his team lost to Donegal in the Ulster final (2-18 to 0-13) and then surrendered tamely to Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals (3-18 to 2-9).

These defeats impacted heavily on Down morale and created considerable disappointment within the county.

County chairman Seamus Walsh, though, has already launched a strong defence of McCartan’s record, indicating that the side is in a better position now than it was when he took over.

But the manner of the defeats by Donegal and Mayo clearly showed that Down are some way behind in terms of both the strategy and conditioning required for success in the modern high-intensity game.

The absence of the influential Danny Hughes could be termed as a mitigating factor but the fact that a number of experienced players failed to impress in both games had much to do with Down’s fall from grace. Walsh concedes that Down are now “outside the top bracket” but still have the capacity to re-join the elite in the future.

“It is generally accepted now that styles change and all teams are finding that they are having to adopt to new concepts,” points out Walsh.

“Obviously Donegal have raised the bar for other teams and the challenge for them is to go with this strategy or come up with a way of counteracting it.”

Manager McCartan is currently on holidays but will have talks with county board officials on his return.

“We had been doing fairly well this year having reached the league semi-finals and secured our place in Division One. We then reached the Ulster final but we did not do ourselves justice in that game. Donegal were too good for us on the day but we have to absorb lessons from that game,” maintains Dundrum man Walsh.

Down are one of the few teams to have beaten Donegal this year – they got the better of Jim McGuinness’s side in a league game earlier in the year at Pairc Esler, Newry.

“While that was an encouraging result, teams are really judged on what they do in the Championship and, this being the case, we would have fallen short of expectations,” admits Walsh.

“While we would wish Donegal well in the All-Ireland final, we have to focus on our own ambitions and try and learn from our experiences of this year.

“Donegal showed against Cork last Sunday the level they can reach and that’s something which we all have to take on board as we try to move forward.”

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