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Old hands giving Down hope for New Year

By John Campbell

Down's resources have undoubtedly been trimmed following the departure of Martin Clarke, Peter Fitzpatrick and Caolan Mooney to Australia, James Colgan's decision to make New Zealand his base for the foreseeable future and John Clarke's retirement.

Throw in the absence of Ambrose Rogers and injuries to Conor Garvey and Declan Rooney, and James McCartan will be without a generous measure of experience for next Sunday's Dr McKenna Cup opener against Armagh.

When the sides last met in the Ulster championship at the end of May, Armagh stunned their neighbours by winning comfortably.

But even though his squad has been amended McCartan will approach the McKenna Cup with optimism.

Two of his most experienced campaigners Daniel Hughes and Benny Coulter are poised to offer experience in attack that could bolster the county's hopes of getting 2012 off to an encouraging start.

Coulter was plagued by hamstring trouble for part of this year but still retains a strong zest for inter-county action while Hughes still retains a hunger to bring the side to glory despite the disappointments of the last decade.

"New faces are coming through and that has to be encouraging. Obviously we have lost some quality players but there is a still a strong pride within the county and I feel that if we can get off on the right foot we might be able to make an impact again in the New Year just as we did two years ago," points out Hughes.

Coulter added: "It's quite a while since Down won the Ulster championship and we would like to end that famine. There is still a hunger within the squad and although it is not going to be easy I think if we all apply ourselves we might be able to achieve something," he said.

Conor Gough, Marcus Miskelly, Niall McParland, Niall Brannigan and Damien and Peter Turley represent fresh blood in the squad and these along with other players are likely to get the chance to impress in the McKenna Cup.

Belfast Telegraph


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