GAA Football

Shane Mulholland and Stephen Poacher keen on Down jobs

Shane Mulholland played for Down at minor, U21 and senior level
Andy Watters

FORMER Down underage managers Shane Mulholland and Stephen Poacher have confirmed their interest in becoming the new Mourne county senior management team.

The Ballyholland Harps clubmen are the first to confirm their interest in the position which was vacated by Eamonn Burns last month. Burns stepped down after three seasons at the helm in the wake of Down’s Qualifier loss to Cavan.

With James McCartan and Conor Deegan continuing in their roles as minor and U20 managers respectively, there had been speculation that the five-man committee tasked with identifying the new man - Sean Rooney (county chairman), Jack Devanney (vice-chairman), Gerry Dougherty, Liam Doyle and Danny Hughes – could propose someone from outside the Mourne County’s borders.

That might still be the case, but the Mulholland-Poacher partnership – and there has also been speculation that Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty (GAA Development Officer at Trinity College Dublin) could be part of their set-up – certainly carries clout.

After representing Down at minor and U21 level, Mulholland played senior football for his county from 1998 to 2003. When his playing career came to an end he spent two seasons as manager of the Down minor team and last year guided Rostrevor to the intermediate championship crown and on to the Ulster final where the St Bronagh’s side lost out to eventual All-Ireland finalists Moy.

Meanwhile, Poacher is one of the most colourful and infectiously enthusiastic characters in the GAA.

Regarded as an innovative and tactically astute coach, the former Down U21 manager has spent the last two seasons as assistant to Turlough O’Brien in Carlow.

During that time the perennial Leinster whipping boys won promotion from Division Four for the first time in 33 years and become the team no-one wanted to draw in the Championship. In 2017 they ended a long Championship drought by beating Wexford, following that up with Qualifier wins over London and Leitrim.

This year Carlow beat Louth and Super 8 qualifiers Kildare on the way to the Leinster semi-finals before bowing out to Tyrone.

“These are fantastic days for Carlow,” said Poacher ahead of the clash with the Red Hands which finished in a creditable 1-10 to 3-14 loss.

“We’ve beaten a division one team in Kildare which was vitally important for the psychology of the group that we could beat someone of a higher standard in a really competitive Championship game, we’ve beaten Louth who were a Division Two team.”

Alongside their managerial experience, Mulholland and Poacher have gathered an in-depth knowledge of the Down club scene and Poacher is also the current manager of the Ballyholland Harps senior team.

Whoever takes over the Mourne county reigns will begin life in Division Three after Down were relegated from Division Two this year despite wins over Louth, eventual champions Roscommon and Tipperary.

In the Championship, Down had little trouble disposing of Antrim in a low-key quarter-final but Donegal had little trouble disposing of the Mournemen at the semi-final stage. Down lasted just one game in the Qualifiers, but they should have beaten Cavan on a luckless, frustrating night at Brewster Park.

In 2017, Down saw off Armagh and Monaghan to reach a surprise Ulster final. There is undoubtedly talent in the county and Mulholland and Poacher feel they are the men who can bring it together and rediscover the winning formula that has – with the exception of the 2010 All-Ireland final team - eluded their predecessors over more than two decades.

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