GAA Football

Down could go beyond their borders after favourites Conor Deegan and James McCartan are reappointed to Mourne U20 and minor teams

James McCartan has been reappointed as the Down minor manager for next year

DOWN will cast their net beyond their own county borders in the search for the man to replace Eamonn Burns as senior team manager.

The Irish News understands that a five-man committee comprising of Sean Rooney (county chairman), Jack Devanney (vice-chairman), Gerry Dougherty, Liam Doyle and Danny Hughes has been appointed to identify the new man.

Former manager James McCartan appears to be out of the running after he was reappointed as the Down minor manager for the 2019 season at a meeting of the Down County Board. And U20 manager Conor Deegan – also expected to be in the frame for a step up to senior level – was also reappointed for next year at the same meeting.

With McCartan and Deegan apparently happy where they are, the early favourites for the job include current Mayo assistant-manager Tony McEntee and Galway assistant-manager Paddy Tally.

Crossmaglen native McEntee was linked with the role three years ago before Burns was appointed while Galbally clubman Tally was part of James McCartan’s backroom team along with Brian McIver in 2010.

Two-time All-Ireland winner Pete McGrath is also expected to be in the frame.

After four years as Fermanagh bainisteoir, the Rostrevor native spent last season as manager of Louth before confirming his resignation on Thursday, just two days after Burns had walked away from Down. However, McGrath insisted that there was no choreography in the developments.

“My decision precedes Eamonn’s decision to step down from Down by a number of weeks,” he said.

“I said to myself: ‘Eamonn resigned on Tuesday and I know if the decision of mine comes out now, people will says ‘he’s left Louth to come to Down’, but that is not the rationale at all.

“If Eamonn hadn’t gone, my decision was made in my mind a couple of weeks ago. People can put two and two together, but what they’ll be getting is five, not four. The Down thing is a completely separate issue.”

This year, under Burns, Down were relegated to Division Three and beat Antrim in the Ulster quarter-finals before losing heavily to Donegal and bowing out of the All-Ireland series in the second round of the Qualifiers after losing to Cavan in a game they should have won.

Last season the Mournemen were the surprise packets of the Ulster Championship, beating Armagh and well-fancied Monaghan to make it to the Ulster final before losing to Tyrone.

Down have struggled to make a consistent impact on the Championship in recent seasons but in 2010 McCartan reminded fans what the county is capable of whenever its best players are brought together and motivated.

With Martin Clarke back from Aussie Rules and the likes of Benny Coulter and Danny Hughes at the peak of their powers, the side, captained by Longstone midfielder Ambrose Rodgers, recovered from an uncertain start in Ulster to blaze a trail through the Qualifiers, beating Kerry at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage and Kildare in the last four to book a place in their first Sam Maguire decider since 1994.

Cork won a thrilling final by a single point and McCartan was unable to field that side again.

Since then, apart from last year’s brief resurgence, Down have failed to rekindle their past glories and Rooney and his team have been tasked with finding the man to make the county competitive once again.


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