We contributed to our own downfall, admits Down manager James McCartan
To err is human, to forgive divine. Down manager James McCartan somewhat reluctantly found himself indulging in the blame game at Croke Park but he certainly could not be faulted for that.
Having just digested a team performance that was heavily pock-marked by mistakes and riddled with uncertainty, his disappointment and exasperation were understandable.
If Cork have tended to be Down’s nemesis over the past two years, then it was his team’s contribution to their own downfall that perturbed the normally unflappable McCartan yesterday.
“The two goals were real killer blows,” admitted the two-time All Ireland winner.
“The manner in which they were conceded was particularly disappointing, the first coming from a loose clearance and the second from an uncharacteristic error by Brendan McVeigh.”
Certainly McVeigh’s surprising lapse in the 60th minute when he mishandled a long hopeful lob which he appeared to have covered saw the game swing away from Down at a stage when they had trimmed Cork’s lead to just three points having earlier reined them in more closely at 1-14 to 1-12.
“You have to allow for human error but it’s very hard to take in such circumstances.
“We had worked our way back into the game and we looked as if we would get something out of it but the concession of the goals along with other errors militated against us. We are a much better team than that, I feel,” reflected McCartan.
While pondering his own team’s deficiencies, he also pinpointed what he felt were vital plus-factors which underpinned Cork’s win.
“When you look at the strength they have in their squad from number 16 to 30 — players who cannot even get into the team — you can see why they have been in the top three sides for some years now,” pointed out McCartan.
“They also have physique and power and they added a sharp scoring touch and strong running to these attributes which made them very formidable opponents on this occasion in particular.”
McCartan though certainly had reason for optimism in the first half when his full-forward line of Arthur McConville, Conor Laverty and Benny Coulter looked particularly lively, all three having been on target within the opening six minutes. “I felt had we been able to continue to deliver good ball into these boys quickly they could have made hay but Cork got a grip at midfield and our possession channels were closed off to a large extent,” admitted McCartan.
But he was in forgiving mood nonetheless.
“The lads tried their hardest but matches like this really show you where you are at,” he declared.
The absence of experienced duo Danny Hughes and Dan Gordon was keenly felt and McCartan is unsure if they will be available to face Fermanagh in the Ulster Championship.
“We are not sure yet of the full extent of Dan Gordon’s injury so we will have to wait and see. Danny Hughes has a hamstring problem and hopefully this will clear up with rest,” McCartan added.
Cork boss Conor Counihan has watched his side gain in momentum over the course of the league but believes that Mayo will pose “a big test” in the final at the end of the month.
“There is a job to be done and looking at the way Mayo played against Kerry they will provide us with a big test.
“They will be difficult to play against but we have two weeks in which to prepare for them and hopefully we will be ready for that challenge,” said Counihan.
He was reluctant to dole out individual praise, preferring instead to laud what he described as “a very solid team effort” that saw off Down’s challenge.