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Paul Devlin's versatility is proving key for Down men

By John Campbell

During the latter stages of James McCartan's reign as Down manager, Paul Devlin strove to become a first-choice player in the line-up.

But a combination of circumstances saw the 22-year-old student endure only frustration in his bid to take his career to another level.

Having garnered three county championship medals as part of the all-conquering Kilcoo side, Devlin's step up looked automatic but Down had rather more resources up front then with Danny Hughes and Benny Coulter in particular in full flight.

Now Jim McCorry, the man who kept Kilcoo to the fore over recent years, is at the helm of operations in Down and in the two competitive matches they have played to date this month, Devlin has made his presence felt.

In the opening day defeat to Cavan, Devlin helped to trigger a Down second-half revival when he was switched to midfield and then on Sunday past he posted two late points, which earned the Mournemen a rather surprising win over Monaghan.

Tomorrow night, Devlin's versatility could again prove key to McCorry's tactical plan when UUJ arrive at Pairc Esler, Newry for a Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup fixture that could well see the winners advance to the semi-finals.

Indeed, not only will McCorry get a further opportunity to assess Devlin's value to the side but he will also run the rule over Caolan Mooney, who has yet to don the Down jersey since returning from Australia but who made quite an impact in the UUJ midfield during the weekend win over Cavan.

A regular place in the Down side is Devlin's prime goal for now but he is prepared to take one step at a time.

"Obviously I am very happy to be getting game time at the moment but competition for places will undoubtedly be stepped up," said Devlin. "This match against UUJ is important in that there is still the chance that we could maybe make it into the semi-finals. It was good to get the win over Monaghan under our belts after that slip-up against Cavan."

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