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Promotion dream is driving force for Down boss McCartan

Down manager James McCartan is targeting a maximum points haul from his team’s next two matches in Division Two of the National Football League to ensure they remain viable candidates for promotion into Division One.

A demanding double-pronged mission commences tomorrow night at Ballybofey against a Donegal side still bearing the mental scars from that surprise drubbing by Kildare last weekend and will continue into the mouth-watering clash with neighbours Armagh in Newry tomorrow week.

No-one knows better than the canny McCartan that for all his team’s encouraging form this year — they have suffered just one defeat so far — the real measure of their worth will be gauged over the course of the next week or so.

“We know that these are two huge games for us but we are looking no further than Donegal at this point in time,” insists McCartan.

“We are preparing to face a backlash following their setback against Kildare and it is going to be very tough indeed.

“The next two rounds of the league will provide an insight as to just where teams will be going.”

Down and Donegal are due to meet again in the first round of the Ulster Championship later in the year but victory tomorrow night is McCartan’s singular quest right now.

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“We need to improve on our display against Tipperary last Saturday when we conceded late frees that helped them to get a draw. There are few teams better than Donegal, too, in the area of free-taking,” warns McCartan.

Tipperary tested Down’s defensive mechanism to such an extent that the Mournemen were forced into tactical amendments but tomorrow night James Colgan, Kevin McKernan and Conor Garvey will again prop up the rearguard with Martin Clarke, his brother John and Daniel Hughes underpinning the attack.

It’s hardly surprising that McCartan and his assistants Paddy Tally and Brian McIver have been placing considerable emphasis on tackling this week in the wake of some of the clumsy challenges which proved so costly last Saturday.

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