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Time for Sam to come on Down

By John Campbell

GAA president Christy Cooney has fired a strident challenge to James McCartan’s revitalised Down side – win an All Ireland title and thus emulate the feats of the heroes of 1960 and ’61.

Cooney was speaking at last night’s formal launch in Newry of this year’s Congress which will take place in the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle on April 16-17.

It’s 50 years since Down first captured the Sam Maguire Cup and Cooney believes the time is right for the county “to send out a strong message to the GAA world”.

He said: “Make no mistake about it, the GAA needs a successful Down side, a side that can follow in the footsteps of the legends that won those back to back titles at the start of the 60s.”

And while Cooney stressed that the current Down side, unbeaten in the National League to date and enjoying the backing of a reinvigorated support, has the capacity to make a bold bid for honours, he believes that the forthcoming Congress will prove a significant landmark not only in Down’s history but in the history of the GAA.

“There will be debate on some very important motions and we expect that major decisions will be taken.

“While the staging of the Congress in Down serves as a reminder of the exploits of what was a pioneering team from the county, it is also a platform for dealing with hugely important issues.

“I am sure that while the delegates who assemble in Newcastle from across the world will be very aware of the decisions that are to be made they can also savour the memories of the county’s great teams of the early 60s,” said McCormack.

Among the important motions on the Congress table will be those relating to the retention or binning of the experimental rules and a call for Central Council to be vested with the powers to decide on the future availability for soccer and rugby internationals now that the Aviva Stadium is nearing completion.

Just last week the National Infrastructure Committee under the chairmanship of Derry’s Seamus McCloy announced the disbursement of some 35m euro which had accrued from the renting out of Croke Park for soccer and rugby internationals.

The Down county board led by chairman Seamus Walsh intends to push the boat out as Congress hosts.

Already a special sub-committee has been hard at work drawing up detailed plans for what its leader Feargal McCormack describes as an iconic event.

“It’s not very often that any county gets the chance to host Congress and we aim to show Down and Ulster in the best possible light.

“We will have 600 delegates coming north and we will also have the President of Ireland Mary McAleese as a VIP guest. Indeed, every hotel bedroom in the whole Newcastle area is already booked out,” states McCormack.

And he adds: “The foundation stones have been laid and the elevator for Congress 2010 is in motion. We aim to make sure that this proves a truly memorable event from every perspective.”

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