Former Down star Benny Coulter excited by Mourne men's future
He may have called time on his inter-county career but Down legend Benny Coulter is preparing to strut his stuff again at a venue which holds a host of memories for him.
Long before Pairc Esler, Newry was transformed into an ultra-modern stadium, Coulter thrilled Mourne followers when St Patrick's Park, Newcastle served as Down's headquarters.
And it's there that he will line out again on Monday night, this time in the company of a platoon of stars when an Ulster Select side taken on an Ireland Select in a special GAA challenge game being staged in conjunction with the Irish Open at nearby Royal County Down.
Coulter's lengthy career in the famed red and black may not have garnered the shoal of honours his individual talent deserved but it provided him with a treasure trove of memories - and a passionate desire to help others.
The Northern Ireland Children with Cancer Fund, a charity close to the heart of Rory McIlroy, will benefit from the proceeds of Monday night's game and Mayobridge clubman Coulter believes it will provide the perfect platform to further ignite interest in Down's Ulster Championship quarter-final clash with Derry on June 7.
"Football fever is sweeping the county at the moment," states Coulter. "Celtic Park is a dangerous place for Down to have to go to because we have had mixed fortunes there. While Down did well to win promotion in the league, Derry were relegated from Division One but league form will count for nothing."
While he believes that the Oak Leafs' league jousts with the top teams such as Dublin, Kerry and Donegal will stand them in good stead, Coulter is nonetheless optimistic that his own county is in a good position.
"There is no doubt that our manager Jim McCorry has the best players in the county now turning out for Down. He has what I feel is a very good 30-man squad and they are well-placed to face this challenge from Derry," states Coulter.
"We have a great support base here. I hope that everyone gets behind the team because if we beat Derry, things will start building again for us.
"Everyone that was asked has thrown their weight behind the challenge game and it's terrific to see such enthusiasm. Hopefully, there will be great support for this very worthy cause."