Down captain Rogers ready for Tyrone
Down manager James McCartan is finding himself confronted by a not unpleasant poser as he prepares for Saturday’s Ulster senior football championship semi-final against Tyrone at Casement Park.
Prior to confronting Donegal in the quarter-finals Down at one stage were in danger of losing their entire full-back line of Daniel McCartan (suspension) and Brendan McArdle and Damian Rafferty (injuries) along with skipper Ambrose Rogers, who was then recovering from a foot injury.
In the event, McArdle and Rafferty recovered in time to take their places in the side, although the former moved to right-back to accommodate Declan Rooney at full-back but McCartan and Rogers still missed out.
Now though Rogers is hoping to return to lead the side against the Red Hands and manager McCartan is pondering over his midfield options.
In the win over Donegal, Kalum King and Dan Gordon formed the midfield with the latter moving up to full forward in the closing stages after John Clarke was substituted.
A fully-fit Rogers would certainly be a boost to Down and given King’s majestic display against Donegal the chances of a link-up between these two players would appear to be strong which could mean that Gordon’s height and experience may be deployed from the start on Saturday in the No 14 shirt.
When Tyrone overcame Antrim in their quarter-final meeting, Kevin Hughes and Colm Cavanagh formed their midfield with the combative Hughes taking the man of the match award following an all-action performance that underscored Tyrone’s impressive start to their championship campaign.
Down boss McCartan is aware that while King is still relatively inexperienced, the defensive duties which he undertook against Donegal in addition to his normal foraging in the central area sustained the team’s challenge in the second-half in particular.
McCartan, too, is taking on board the fact that Conor Maginn made a big contribution to the win in Ballybofey, his robbing of Neil Gallagher of possession leading directly to Down’s goal which was scored by Benny Coulter.
McCartan says: “Obviously we maybe have a couple of more options going into this game against Tyrone but we will certainly need them. We are meeting the reigning Ulster champions who have already shown that they are very keen to retain their title and they have several new players anxious to make their mark.”
There is still doubts about Conor Gormley who missed Tyrone’s win over Antrim while Peter Harte, who had a telling input when he went in as a substitute against the Saffrons, has his sights on a starting place.
But Tommy McGuigan, also deployed as a substitute against Liam Bradley’s side, may miss the semi-final through injury and his brother Brian may not start either.
While Ciaran Gourley is fit again, he may not be risked in this match and Harte, conscious that the Down attack sparkled for the most part against Donegal, may opt for the same defence that played against Antrim.
Meanwhile, Kerry’s Paul Galvin is facing the prospect of another two months on the sidelines after the CCCC reviewed his clash with Cork’s Eoin Cadogan — in which he made contact with the player’s face — during Sunday’s Munster football semi-final replay.