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I’ll soak up all the knowledge I can, says new Down ladies boss Ronan McCartan

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Down U20 backroom team (from L to R): Declan Morgan, Ronan McCartan, Martin Clarke and Sean Boylan

Down U20 backroom team (from L to R): Declan Morgan, Ronan McCartan, Martin Clarke and Sean Boylan

Down U20 backroom team (from L to R): Declan Morgan, Ronan McCartan, Martin Clarke and Sean Boylan

New Down ladies’ football manager Ronan McCartan has already learned so much from Meath legend Seán Boylan.

Both were involved in Down’s brilliant run to an All-Ireland U20 semi-final but the Ballymartin native says he hasn’t fully tapped into the greatest resource of all, just yet.

“He hasn’t offered me any advice yet but I will definitely be seeing him when I get back,” enthused McCartan.

“I’ll be speaking to him as much as I can in the next 12 months. He is definitely somebody you like to bounce ideas off.”

McCartan was a coach under Conor Laverty earlier this year, while Boylan acted as more of an advisor behind the scenes.

Boylan’s record with the Royals stands on its own; he guided them to four All-Ireland titles in his 23 years in charge, along with eight provincial titles and three NFL titles.

Boylan was a huge asset for Laverty and his backroom team to call upon while Down fought their way to a first Ulster title at that level since 2009 with an extra-time victory over Monaghan.

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They eventually succumbed to Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-final but the Down players had grown massively in Boylan’s presence.

“When Seán speaks, you can’t not be fascinated. The way he speaks to players, the way he is with other members of the management, he is just a gentleman from start to finish,” said McCartan.

“You often hear about people like that, then you see them and they just mirror everything you’ve heard, Sean would be one of them. Conor Laverty has got a massive future — he’ll go to the very top, but even he picks up an awful lot from Seán.

“Players love him. Seán is 71 this year and he would have driven to the far end of Down from Meath two or three times a week for us. When you see somebody like that from the commitment end and trying to help our group, you couldn’t not feel so much affection for him. ”

Considering he is still just 38, McCartan already has an extensive managerial and coaching CV, which included a stint with the Down ladies when he worked alongside Ryan McShane.

His most recent job ended just last weekend when he guided Saul to an historic first win, and safety, in the Down SFC — a year after their brilliant Intermediate Championship success, again under McCartan.

But he moves onto pastures new now and taking the reins of the Down ladies is a big step forward for his career.

“I had a brief stint with the Down ladies in 2017 for a year, I was in as a coach. I just felt that I had unfinished business that I’d like to finish the job,” said McCartan.

“For myself, I would like to try and see if I can get success with them. It’s a massive honour, everybody always aspires to manage their county.”

The highlight of the summer was when Down were crowned Ulster Intermediate champions after a brilliant 2-10 to 2-7 victory over Fermanagh at Páirc Esler in Newry on June 26.

That win could provide the foundations for a big season ahead but McCartan knows that he needs to hit the ground running.

“It’s going to be hard work, I know, but it’s something we will aspire to, to try and get the girls as high up the rankings in the league this year, and see if we can get closer to the promotion side of it,” said McCartan.

“They won Ulster last year but I know Tyrone are down this year. Tyrone are going to be very strong coming down off senior. And they are going to be very competitive not only in Ulster but also in the All-Ireland.”

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