James McCartan can turn Down around against Monaghan
Football followers can have very short memories. A few months ago James McCartan was being eulogised for taking Down into the All-Ireland football final which they were decidedly unlucky to lose by a solitary point — by 0-16 to 0-15 — to Cork.
But Mourne County boss McCartan now finds himself under fire for an alleged failure to make defensive changes when his side were on the receiving end of a rather more embarrassing defeat — 3-17 to 0-15 — at the hands of Conor Counihan’s men in the Allianz League last weekend.
But those who believe that a quick fix can be applied to Down’s perceived shortcomings right now are failing to take into account some salient facts.
Brendan McVeigh, Daniel McCartan and Damien Rafferty — three of the best defenders in the province if not in the country — are currently missing because of injury; wing-back Conor Garvey is striving to reach full match fitness after a spell on the sidelines; and long-serving Liam Doyle is still acclimatising to the rigours of inter-county football in the wake of a lengthy rehab programme.
While the most recent setback against Cork — Down’s first league defeat, incidentally — has induced rumblings of discontent, victory over Monaghan in tonight’s crucial tie at Pairc Esler, Newry would do much to erase the unrest.
McCartan, though, has never been one to trot out excuses — he is known and respected for calling it like it is. And his assessment of tonight’s mission will not be lost on the Mourne faithful.
“Monaghan ran Dublin and Armagh very close and are certainly a work in progress under Eamon McEnaney.
“They will come to us keen to get the points to keep themselves clear of relegation worries so it is a very big game,” insists McCartan.
There is still a doubt about Benny Coulter for whom Ronan Murtagh has been deputising but Danny Hughes, Martin Clarke and Mark Poland can pull the strings in the Down attack with Kalum King and Peter Fitzpatrick capa
ble of getting on top at midfield and Dan Gordon well able to anchor the defence.
Meanwhile, few managers appear to have quite the number of team permutations at their disposal as Derry boss John Brennan.
His side will tonight take on a Donegal outfit that has remained unbeaten in Division Two and which is giving every indication that it would not look out of place in the top bracket.
With Eoin Bradley unavailable following his dismissal against Sligo, Brennan has again amended his attack but seasoned warriors Paddy Bradley and Enda Muldoon will still be key figures in the full-forward line.
Ciaran Mullan, PJ McCloskey and Ciaran McGoldrick are among the newcomers who have bedded down well as has goalkeeper Danny Devlin.
Skipper Michael Murphy has been an inspirational figure for Donegal while Rory Kavanagh’s return has bolstered midfield and Ryan Bradley, Colm McFadden and Dermot Molloy are all proving their worth in attack.
The outcome of the tie could ultimately rest on a potential free-taking duel between Paddy Bradley and Michael Murphy.