No excuses as Down falter
James McCartan walks into the interview room to face the music.
His black humour announces itself in the opening comment, “This isn't going to take long because the Dubs are coming on shortly!”
Down were ponderous and lacking any zip, so the natural inclination is to question their levels of fatigue after three games in three weeks.
“No,” McCartan says, “I wouldn't like to point the blame at that. There's no doubt we were flat-footed and were beaten for pace. Their forwards led us a merry dance throughout large periods of that game and we couldn't get to grips with it at all.
“It would be very easy to point to that.
“Three games in a row...there's plenty of time to recover, it's trying to get the mind right a bit quicker.
“But it's disappointing, they put us away very clinically.”
He continued, “I'm very disappointed for a group of players in the dressing room, it's a disappointing way to end the year and I couldn't have asked for any more effort from them.
“They have toiled well and to go out the way we went out is disappointing for everybody involved.”
This team have been around a few turns, but this no-show was uncharacteristic. In the mind of their manager, they have never posted a day's work as bad.
“Certainly the worst,” he said. “At least in the Ulster Final I felt we competed for large periods of the game, even in the first half whenever we did come back the problems were there, and we still haven't solved the problems. At any stage of the day. I felt we were tricky enough up front, but there was too much being conceded at the back.”
He added, “It's a cruel way to get put out but Croke Park is the place where any frailties are exposed, and that was certainly done today.”
It was tentatively-asked, with great tact, but when the subject of McCartan's own personal future was mooted it was too early for a topic of conversation and once again we got that glint, a rueful smile and the humour.
“No, youse can talk away! I'll leave the room and youse can have a chat!,” he added.
“It's similar rhetoric to what every body says, it's not a decision for now.
“Today's certainly a hard pill to swallow, but I have a group of players who gave me their all for three years, we had some good days on the road, some bad days on the road.
“All I can say is that they have given me their best and we try to give them the format and the possibility of going out and performing on the big stages.
“We've come up short but it certainly hasn't been for lack of trying on the players' behalf and they certainly have my thanks ringing in their ears for the last three years.”
With a little distance, the assessment of the last three years will stack up with more positives than negatives.
In the meantime, let's hope he stays to continue his good work.
James McCartan needs football, but not as much as football needs men like McCartan.