Down manager James McCartan has been dealt a huge blow in the build-up to the Ulster Football Championship now that he has been robbed of one of his most accomplished defenders.
Right-full-back Daniel McCartan has had his appeal against the eight-week ban imposed following his dismissal against Armagh in last month’s National League Division Two final thrown out and will now miss the important quarter-final tie against Donegal in Ballybofey on May 30.
McCartan, younger brother of the Mourne manager, was involved in an incident with Armagh’s Aaron Kernan in the closing minutes of the game but it had been thought that he might only serve a four-week suspension.
However, the Croke Park Hearings Committee has decreed that the ban imposed by the Central Competitions Control Committee must now stand.
Down secretary Sean Og McAteer expressed disappointment at the outcome of the appeal.
“Obviously this is a setback. Daniel has been one of our most consistent players and there had been general agreement even within Armagh that the incident looked worse than it actually was,” said McAteer.
With left-corner-back Damian Rafferty an absentee from the game against Armagh because of a hamstring problem and both Aidan Carr and Liam Doyle still striving to reach full fitness after injuries, manager McCartan is suddenly confronted with defensive concerns.
Rafferty, the essence of consistency in the Down rearguard this year up until his injury, is still hopeful of making the cut against Donegal, however.
The tenacious left-full-back, who recently opened a sports goods outlet in Newry, is the only player from the city in the Down squad and is now regarded as one of the best corner backs in the province.
Manager McCartan says: “Damien was desperately disappointed to miss the Croke Park game against Armagh but he’s very fired up for Donegal and that’s encouraging.
“We were fortunate in that we were able to field a fairly settled team during the league but now we have one or two problems on our hands.
“I’m saddened to learn that Daniel’s appeal has not succeeded,” he added.
Secretary McAteer stresses that Down’s level of sportsmanship had been good in the National League.
“It’s a bit ironic that we suddenly have an availability problem with our two corner backs after they have been so outstanding so far this year.
“Daniel’s red card against Armagh was a surprise and Damien’s injury a setback.
“These are model players, a manager’s dream.
“They give 100 per cent in every game and the sooner we have them both back on board the better,” insists McAteer.
Manager McCartan is particularly anxious to field his strongest possible defence against Donegal given the considerable threat that will be posed by the imposing Michael Murphy in particular in the hosts’ forward line.