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McCartan knows the score on Tyrone Down’s day of destiny

By Micheal McGeary

Little has changed since James McCartan lit up the Ulster championship in the halcyon days of 1991 and 1994.

Now in his first Championship season as manager of the Mourne men the demands are just as great.

It’s just as well that at times like these he has a wry sense of humour that serves him well.

“It was a real relief to get over the Donegal game and I’m glad to have had a stay of execution,” he said. “A manager is always judged on how his team performs come Championship time.

“Against Donegal we weren’t all that far away from losing and there’s a very thin dividing line between success and failure.

“The one thing you have to remember about management is that it always ends in the sack as well as some sort of lambasting so the best you can do is prolong it for another day.”

In his first season wee James as he’s affectionately known steered his side to promotion from Division Two. They lost the Division Two League decider to Armagh, but then bounced back to overcome Donegal in the opening round of the Championship.

It was a display not without flaws, but McCartan can take heart from the fact his side improved immeasurably in the second half.

The decision to move Dan Gordon to full forward and bring Benny Coulter to midfield paid handsome dividends while Danny Hughes had his best game in the county colours.

Former Aussie Rules star Martin Clarke kicked some crucial scores and looks more at home with each passing game.

“He can be a playmaker, he can take scores and he’s definitely bringing out the best in the other players,” said McCartan.

“What I’ve found with Marty is that he comes in for special attention, but he’s well used to that.

“I always warn him about certain players and how he’s got to be prepared for the verbals, but he had to cope with that in his time in Australia.”

There’s no doubt Clarke’s arrival home from Down Under has eased the burden on Benny Coulter and the game in Ballybofey was testimony to that.

The continuing emergence of Clarke and especially Danny Hughes has firmly nailed the myth that Down are a one man team.

Losing to Antrim in a challenge game wasn’t quite what the manager had scripted, but perhaps it was a timely wake up call.

Not that he needed any reminding, but the DVD of the Championship game against Donegal made for painful viewing.

“Conceding a sloppy first-half goal was a concern as was the manner in which Donegal were gifted a couple of goal scoring opportunities in extra time,” he said.

l DOWN captain Ambrose Rogers returns to midfield for to morrow night's Ulster senior football championship semi final against Tyrone in Casement Park.

Dan Gordon pressed into action against Donegal in the championship in Ballybofey will line out at full forward, John Clarke and Paul McComiskey the two players to miss out.

DOWN: B McVeigh; D Rooney, B McArdle, D Rafferty; K McKernan, J Colgan, C Garvey; A Rogers, C King; D Hughes, M Poland, B Coulter;C Maginn, D Gordon, M Clarke.

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