Selection dilemma now comes to the four for Down
Down’s emergence from the football shadows has provided senior team boss Ross Carr with a poser in advance of Saturday’s National Football League Division Three final against Tipperary.
Does he include his four panellists from the Under 21 squad — Jamie O’Reilly, Peter Fitzpatrick, Paul McComiskey and Conor Maginn — in his starting line-up or hold them in reserve for their All Ireland final showdown with Cork on May Bank Holiday weekend?
All four have made their own particular impact in the National League, with O’Reilly, McComiskey and Maginn having looked likely in attack while Fitzpatrick has over the course of recent weeks laid down a marker that he could become a more regular presence at midfield at senior level.
Indeed, it’s the selection of his midfield pairing that is currently providing manager Carr with much food for thought.
Dan Gordon’s opportune return to action at club level following injury, Stephen Kearney’s recent robust displays and Jackie Lynch’s honest endeavour make them all credible candidates for engine-room action at Pearse Park, Longford against a Tipperary side that boasts a similar league record to the Mournemen — played seven, won five, lost two.
Down enjoy — if that’s the word — an eight-points scoring difference advantage but that will count for precisely nothing on Sunday - a fact that Carr readily concedes.
“I have watched Tipperary progress and their manager John Evans has been doing excellent work.
He is a fine coach and he has now got the side playing in the manner in which he wants them to,” stresses Carr.
The absence of Kevin McKernan means that the No 6 shirt is agin up for grabs while Aidan Carr, Conor Garvey, Declan Rooney, Luke Howard, Damien Rafferty and goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh look certain to start in defence.
The more experienced Down forwards such as John Fegan, Benny Coulter, Ronan Murtagh and Daniel Hughes could be joined by any two from Benny McArdle, Conor Maginn, Stephen Kearney or Jamie O’Reilly in attack.
Not only is Sunday’s encounter with Tipperary providing Down with the chance to grab silverware again — they won the Gaelic Life Dr McKenna Cup last year — but it also represents their last important game before they face Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship at Brewster Park, Enniskillen on May 17.