GAA Football

Down full-back Gerard McGovern quits Mourne county panel

Gerard McGovern has quit the Down panel and intends to go travelling
Andy Watters

DOWN full-back Gerard McGovern has left the Mourne county panel.

The Burren defender intends to go traveling and will not be part of Eamonn Burns’ squad for the rest of the year.

McGovern played in Down’s Division Two opening day win against Louth but didn’t feature in the subsequent loss to Cork or in last weekend’s victory against Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park and manager Burns described the loss of the experienced man-marker as “very disappointing”.

“Gerard has left the panel,” Burns confirmed.

“He is planning to go traveling, he has work commitments and he was finding it hard to make training so he has decided to pull out.

“It’s very disappointing from our perspective but I think he is planning to travel to America and then on to Australia. We don’t have the players under contract, it’s not a professional game although they are amateur players in a professional set-up.”

Second-from-top Down – who have four points out of a possible six so far - will also have to do without full-forward Connaire Harrison for their round four fixture against second-from-bottom Clare in Newry on February 25.

Harrison received a two-game suspension after he was sent off against Cork, ruling him out of last weekend’s trip to Roscommon and the visit of the Bannermen. Burns has warned the Glassdrumman forward – the match-winner against Louth – that he won’t be an automatic starter after he serves his ban.

“Connaire won’t be available and that gives somebody an opportunity because we have a lot of boys who want to play in the inside line and competition for places is tight at the minute,” said Burns.

“I’ve made it very clear to Connaire that it’s not an automatic choice that he will play when he comes back, he’ll have to battle hard and earn his place back.”

Among the players who are jostling for starting roles in the Down attack is Donal O’Hare who top scored with three points in the impressive win against the Rossies.

“Donal played well for us in Roscommon and he took some very important scores in the first half,” said Burns.

“Last year he had an operation at the start of the season and it took much longer than we had anticipated for him to recover.

“He really was only ready to go when it came to Championship time and everybody was firing on all cylinders at that stage but he came on in a couple of games and played well.

“Last year was probably frustrating for him but this year he is playing very well.”

Also pushing for a starting spot is Saval full-forward Niall Madine who made his first appearance of the season last weekend. However, his contribution will be limited until the conclusion of Ulster University’s Sigerson Cup campaign.

“He’s still involved with Jordanstown in the Sigerson and I’d be very reluctant to play those boys when they’re in that competition,” said Burns.

“They’re playing during the week and I think it’s too demanding on them.

“I know other counties do play these lads but I think it’s a wee bit unfair. Niall is very aware of the situation, he is training away with us but we let him focus on the Sigerson although he came on in Roscommon and got a point that helped us work our way to the victory.

“He’s working his way in and he had a wee bit to do in terms of fitness but he’s working hard.”

Barry O’Hagan and Sean Dornan have also featured in Down’s League campaign while Kilcoo’s Ryan Johnston made his first start last weekend.

“That was Ryan’s first full outing since he got injured with Kilcoo last year so hopefully that’s him back in full working order,” said Burns.

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