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National Football League: Burren making case for defence

By John Campbell

The Burren factor has certainly come to the aid of Down manager James McCartan in his ongoing bid to prop up his injury-hit defence during the Allianz League.

When Down edged past neighbours Armagh by a solitary point — 0-12 to 0-11 — in their last league outing, four of the defenders who finished that game were drawn from the Burren club.

And the quartet will be back on active service tomorrow night at Pairc Ui Rinn when the Mournemen set out to avenge last year’s All-Ireland final defeat by Cork.

Goalkeeper Cathal Murdock, corner back Gerard McCartan and half-backs Declan Rooney and Kevin McKernan will fly the Burren flag for a Down side that will still be missing three regular defenders in Daniel McCartan — yet another Burren player, incidentally — along with goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh and left-full-back Damien Rafferty.

Hamstring victim Benny Coulter could be missing from the attack, having incurred his injury in the warm-up immediately prior to the game against Armagh.

With five points garnered from a possible six to date, manager McCartan is aware that victory over Conor Counihan’s men could thrust his side into the league title frame. Yet he prefers to look at things from a rather different perspective.

“I am not being negative but two points would maybe keep us further away from relegation. That’s how I see it.

“Everything is so tight in the top division. Teams that are in this bracket naturally want to stay there — anything else that comes along has to be viewed as a bonus,” maintains McCartan.

Peter Fitzpatrick and Kalum King will again be paired at midfield and will face Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor, perhaps the most physically imposing engine-room in the country, while Martin Clarke, Danny Hughes, Mark Poland and Conor Maginn can fire up the Mourne attack.

Ronan Murtagh was a late call-up for Coulter against Armagh and turned in a fine display which should see him rewarded with game time tomorrow.

Cork’s line-up will not differ that much from last year’s All-Ireland final which means that Down will be up against it from the outset particularly on the tight confines of the Pairc Ui Rinn pitch.

Eoin Cadogan and Paudie Kissane form the central spine of the defence while newcomer Denis O’Sullivan has been catching the eye in the half-back line.

And the Down rearguard will need to be particularly wary of the threat posed by Paddy Kelly, Pearse O’Neill, Daniel Goulding and Donnacha O’Connor.

Kelly and O’Neill are not noted for their scoring returns but they have been hitting the target regularly in the league, O’Neill showing marked accuracy in landing five points against Monaghan.

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