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Down boss McCartan realistic about tough task

By John Campbell

Down manager James McCartan accepts that his team have a mountain to climb if they are to retain their place Division One in the Allianz Football League for next year.

Two points from a possible 10 to date hint rather too strongly at relegation and with Dublin palpably anxious to atone for what they view as nothing more than a hiccup against Tyrone last Saturday when they meet the Mournemen tomorrow night, McCartan's problems look set to mount.

Yet the Under-21 side shone a ray of light for the future in overcoming Armagh in the Ulster Championship on Wednesday but while players such as the Johnston brothers Ryan and Jerome, Michael Cunningham, Conor Gough, Danny Savage and Darragh O'Hanlon offer rich promise, Down's immediate needs must be met by a team shorn of a considerable ration of experience.

The well-documented continued absence of Ambrose Rogers, Liam Doyle, Dan Gordon and Daniel Hughes imposes its own restrictions on the team's efficiency and now the possible absence of Daniel McCartan and Aidan Carr for the visit to Headquarters magnifies the apprehension surrounding relegation. McCartan, to his credit, is consistently prepared to accept, however reluctantly, the hand which he is dealt.

No recriminations and even less excuses have been coming from a man who has taken his county to Croke Park on eight occasions in the three years he has been in charge. Tomorrow's assignment, though, is arguably one of the most important games that Down will have faced for some considerable time.

He said: "We could moan about having lost Daniel McCartan in the warm-up to last Saturday's game against Kerry and then losing Aidan Carr but what's the point?

"Anything that could have gone wrong for us in relation to that match did go wrong. Our defensive strategy was thrown into disarray very early on and it was difficult to recover from that. But we have a chance tomorrow to show our character and resilience and I hope that we can take it."

Indeed, he will send his team out against Dublin in the hope that they will give it everything.

"We have to go for it. Pride is still a great spur and Croke Park is the biggest stage on which to show your character," maintains McCartan.

Mayo and Kerry are also bracketed with Down in the Division One basement and it's safe to say that their respective results this weekend against Donegal and Cork will be eagerly scanned by everyone in the Mourne county.

Irrespective of tomorrow night's result, it will get no easier for Down next weekend as Kieran McGeeney's hungry Kildare side will be lying in wait for them.

Belfast Telegraph


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