GAA Football

Alan O'Neill: Down will feel Niall McParland loss

CLUB CALL: Alan O'Neill is hopeful that Niall McParland can add to the Glenn cause before he leaves for Qatar 

THE next Down manager will have a huge hole to fill in the absence of 2018 captain Niall McParland, according to his club manager Alan O’Neill.

The former Armagh defender is the currently in charge of Glenn and has worked closely with McParland, who is heading to Qatar to take up a teaching role, in recent months.

“I think any county in Ireland would suffer for losing a player of the calibre of Niall McParland,” said O’Neill. “It’s a huge loss.

“It’s especially tough on the club though but it’s something he has been toying at for a while. He’s the age to do it and he’s just right.”

Speaking to the Newry Reporter, McParland said that he would be out of the country until next June, ruling him out of the Mourne county’s Division Three campaign and the start of their Championship season too.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision to make,” said McParland. “It was a long and hard one, but when I weighed everything up I have to make money somewhere along the line.

“I massively enjoyed playing for Down this year and it was an honour being captain, but I just felt it was time to step aside and let some of the other boys at it.”

McParland also revealed that he would like to see Steven Poacher and Paddy Tally seriously considered as replacements for Eamonn Burns, who stepped down as manager at the end of last season.

He is the latest player to go on record giving his view. Kevin McKernan told The Irish News that Tally would be a great addition for the county.

“It would be a massive coup for the county to get him because his record speaks for itself.”

Darren O’Hagan, meanwhile, announced his preference for Poacher in another media outlet.

McParland is yet to finalise his travel plans but will be available for Glenn’s Down Championship clash with Warrenpoint in Mayobridge on Saturday, and O’Neill is hoping for another big performance before he departs.

Glenn, who operate in a division below Warrenpoint, go into the game as big underdogs and although the sides haven’t met this season, O’Neill is aware of just how good their opponents are.

“I came up against them in an Ulster Intermediate final there a couple of years ago when I was managing Inniskeen,” he said.

“They were very impressive that day and managed to win, and they seem to have pushed on since then.

“They have a real pedigree now and are rightly considered one of the top teams in the county.”

Glenn were also battling against the odds last weekend though as they faced RGU Downpatrick in their championship opener.

A 12-point defeat to Bredagh and a 24-point loss to Loughinisland in Division Two had left their confidence on the floor, but the return of some key players sparked their best performance of the season as Ronan Millar’s goal helped them to a three-point victory.

“We’ve had a mixed bag in terms of results this season,” said O’Neill.

“We have a small pick and we had lost players through injury and things like that, and we still have players missing for that reason.

“The boys have been rolling up their sleeves though and they have been getting on with it.

“On Sunday they turned up and they fought hard.

“They ran themselves into the ground and we were delighted with their performance.”

Monday’s second round draw on Monday night also paired Kilcoo with Castlewellan, Burren with Carryduff and Mayobridge with Saval.

The four games in the backdoor section paired Ballyholland with Clonduff, An Riocht with RGU Downpatrick, Bryansford with Rostrevor and Loughinisland with Longstone.

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