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McCartan forced to turn to Down rookies

By John Campbell

 Down manager James McCartan used no fewer than 33 players during the course of the Allianz Football League.

However, because of injuries, emigration and travel lust he finds he is still some way off compiling a settled side for the forthcoming Ulster Championship.

Few teams have been forced to shoulder the burden of unavailable key players like Down have and McCartan’s optimism that his selection options might improve in the build-up to the all-important tie with Derry on June 2 has now waned somewhat.

Yet, he remains hopeful that the emergence of younger players, via the county’s Under-21 side.

Several players such as Danny Savage, Conor Gough, Michael Madine, Shay McArdle, Jerome Johnston and Michael Cunningham were afforded game time at different periods over the course of the league, ostensibly to provide them with a frisson of experience on which to build for the longer term. But Down’s short-term needs are such that McCartan may well have to augment his bench for the championship with rookies as he strives to provide some form of compensation for Mourne supporters following demotion in the league.

Yet, while he can justifiably lament the absence of a raft of players all is not doom and gloom for McCartan.

Kevin McKernan rediscovered his best form against Kildare, Eoin McCartan snapped up two goals, Paul Devlin impressed on the ‘40’, Niall Madine was effective when sprung from the bench and Benny Coulter deployed his vast experience to good effect.

“There are encouraging aspects but the big drawback is that we are conceding too much, particularly in the way of goals.

“We have to tighten up,” says McCartan.

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