Down manager James McCartan could find himself confronted by an interesting selection poser as he continues to prepare the groundwork for the 2022 season.
McCartan recently succeeded Paddy Tally as Mourne boss and is now tasked with restoring morale and improving the status of a county which must go back to 1994 for its last brush with major success when the Ulster and All-Ireland titles were won.
As McCartan continues his talent trawl, the exploits of a player in the deep south of the island have suddenly come to his attention.
Conor McCrickard, who is no stranger to the famed red and black jersey having played against Donegal last year, has been taking the Cork Senior Football Championship by storm in recent weeks and crowned a major input into the success attained by his adopted St Finbarr’s club by scoring 2-1 in the Munster Club Semi-Final against Clare champions Éire Óg.
And while Down will be immersed in the Dr McKenna Cup this month having been drawn in Group A along with Donegal and Antrim — they will face Donegal in their opening game next Friday — McCrickard will be endeavouring to collect a second medal in the Munster series.
It’s all rather different to pursuing his playing career on home ground with Leitrim Fontenoys in the lower regions of the Down All-County League but McCrickard has taken to the ferociously competitive environment of Cork club football like a duck to water.
“I would have to say that I never for the life of me thought I would see myself playing club football in Cork but then you just don’t know what’s in front of you in life at times,” smiles McCrickard. “I am really so happy to be part of this St Finbarr’s team right now and to be achieving Championship success. They are fanatical about their football in Cork and I must say that I get on well with all the players here.
“That is certainly a big help, especially as I have come into the squad as an outsider. I am very happy indeed to be part of the set-up.”
It was after moving to the Rebel County on a work placement arrangement that McCrickard decided to throw in his lot with St Finbarr’s.
He scored in every game in the Cork Championship and admits that he can hardly wait for the attractive Munster Club Championship Final tie against Kerry outfit Austin Stacks.
“Obviously this is a match that will create tremendous interest down here given the depth of talent that will be on view but we have to be up for the challenge. Austin Stacks have already proved themselves in Kerry so we know what to expect,” states McCrickard.
McCartan, meanwhile, is hoping that the Dr McKenna Cup will offer him an insight to his current resources.
His predecessor Tally handed debuts to a number of players but McCartan is keen to put his own stamp on how Down will line out and what strategy they will embrace.
The heavy defeat to Donegal in the Ulster Championship earlier this year created deep disappointment within the county and ultimately precipitated the departure of Tally.
In his previous tenure, McCartan steered Down into the 2010 All-Ireland Final in which they were beaten by Cork.