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James McCartan takes up the Down reins once again

Ex-boss back at helm with revival in the Mournemen’s fortunes a priority


Big test: James McCartan is back and hoping to plot fresh glory for his native Down. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Big test: James McCartan is back and hoping to plot fresh glory for his native Down. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

©INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Big test: James McCartan is back and hoping to plot fresh glory for his native Down. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

The Down board has confirmed that former manager James McCartan will now fill the position of county football team boss which has been vacant since the recent departure of Paddy Tally. Armagh 2002 All-Ireland winner Aidan O’Rourke, who is director of football at Queen’s University, will be his assistant.

During McCartan’s previous term in charge, the Mourne side reached the All-Ireland final in 2010 when they were narrowly defeated by Cork (0-16 to 0-15).

Since then, Down have laboured in the shadows and their current woes were compounded when they were humbled by Donegal in this year’s Ulster Championship.

McCartan, an All-Ireland winner with the Mourne County in 1991 and 1994, still retains a passionate interest in football and his return to the hotseat will be welcomed within a county that has endured its share of disappointments over the course of recent years.

With the date for the resumption of county squad training having now been brought forward to December 8, this means that McCartan will only have limited time in which to assemble his squad and make preparations for the forthcoming Dr McKenna Cup competition.

McCartan, though, is already equipped with a detailed knowledge of the talent within the county and this should facilitate a smooth start to his role.

It had been thought initially that a management ticket comprising current U20 boss Conor Laverty, 2012 Donegal All-Ireland-winning manager Jim McGuinness and ex-Down player Marty Clarke would be put in place but this plan was abandoned when McGuinness indicated that he was keen to retain his current capacity as a soccer coach with Derry City.

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The appointment of McCartan, though, will be viewed as significant since he looks capable of restoring pride in the jersey while at the same time establishing what is likely to be a strong rapport with the players.

In taking his county into the 2010 All-Ireland final, McCartan unveiled a marked tactical nous and his side were particularly unfortunate to go under by the narrowest of margins.

Since then, Down have struggled to make an impact both in Ulster and on the All-Ireland stage.

It had been thought that Tally, who stepped down following this year’s Ulster Championship, might orchestrate a measure of success for the county but the absence of some key players and an inability to achieve any level of consistency proved to be the team’s downfall.

Down’s last Ulster Championship title triumph was in 1994 when Peter McGrath was in charge and since then the county’s huge army of supporters have had little to celebrate.

Yet more recently, players such as Liam Kerr, Corey Quinn, Daniel Guinness and Ceilum Doherty have come to the fore in the county colours and offered hope for the future

If Down have had to exercise patience at county board level in appointing a new manager, then their clubs have certainly not been allowing the grass to grow under their feet in filling managerial vacancies.

Stephen Poacher, who was Turlough O’Brien’s right-hand man in Carlow before linking up with Roscommon boss Anthony Cunningham, has now thrown in his lot with Mayobridge, while former Down player Benny Coulter is the new manager of Rostrevor.

Ciaran McKeever, who is part of Kieran McGeeney’s management team in Armagh, had been in charge of Mayobridge of late but will now focus strongly on his Orchard County role.

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