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Ex-Black Cat Mattie Bagnall hopes for starring role

By John Campbell

A player who was formerly on the books of Premiership side Sunderland will get a chance tomorrow to stake his claim for recognition in Down's colours in 2015.

Mattie Bagnall, who has been in fine form at midfield for the Glenn club this year, will be in the Down Club All Stars team that will meet a Down Select XV at Pairc Esler, Newry (2pm) with the proceeds going to the Southern Area Hospice.

Bagnall is one of a number of players keen to avail of the opportunity to impress Down manager Jim McCorry as he seeks to plug gaps caused through long-term injuries and retirements.

Darryl Branagan (Kilcoo), Ross McGarry and Donagh McAleenan (both Warrenpoint) and Conleth O'Hare (Mayobridge) are other members of the All Stars team who look capable of making the step-up to the inter-county arena.

Branagan was outstanding for Kilcoo in their surge to yet another county title under McCorry's stewardship while McGarry and McAleenan have been in superb form for new Ulster club intermediate champions St Peter's, Warrenpoint.

O'Hare, a durable half-back, has been catching the eye during Mayobridge's campaign and now gets the chance to prove that county football is within his compass.

Down boss McCorry is already tasked with filling a number of key positions in his side and while his focus is obviously on discovering his best starting team, he is also anxious to ensure that he will have adequate cover for every position.

Michael Cunningham looks set to get an extended run as goalkeeper now Brendan McVeigh has retired but the right full-back position is still up for grabs since Daniel McCartan has not been invited onto the initial squad.

Kevin McKernan, one of Down's most consistent players this year, will turn out for the All Stars team at left half-back and his long-serving county colleague Brendan Coulter will be at midfield where he is expected to show that he still has much to offer despite just recently having called time on his career at the top level.

"A lot of players who have been very consistent at club level will get the chance to show what they can do and this may provide our management team with a pointer towards the future," said Down spokesman Paul Rooney.

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