Down seeking back-up 'keeper after departures from panel
A NUMBER of players have exited the Down panel following the conclusion of their Division Three League campaign.
Bryansford duo David McKibben and Marc Reid, Clonduff’s Stephen McConville and Kilcoo’s Ceilum Doherty are all understood to have stepped away ahead of the Mourne county’s Ulster Championship meeting with Armagh on May 19.
Three of the four players saw League action, with goalkeeper Reid the odd one out.
Previous boss Eamonn Burns had selected him in goals for last year’s Ulster Championship games with Antrim and Donegal but new manager Paddy Tally opted to give Castlewellan’s Rory Burns his chance in the Dr McKenna Cup and the latter has now started nine of the 10 games since Tally took over.
The one match Burns missed was the Dr McKenna Cup defeat to Donegal when Johnny Parr played in goals.
The Rostrevor man is no longer involved with the squad nor is Kilcoo’s Niall Kane, leaving Down without a recognised back-up goalkeeper. That may be something Tally may have to address in the lead-up to the Armagh game.
Doherty made the most appearances of the other three, having come off the bench in the loss to Laois and the victories over Offaly and Carlow.
Stephen McConville is the only player of the four to have a League start to his name this season – against Laois – while McKibben came off the bench against Offaly.
Their opponents at Pairc Esler next month have also lost a few players recently.
Armagh Harps’ half-forward Ryan McShane, Ballymacnab full-forward Jack Grugan, and Wolfe Tones’ man-marker Ruairi McCaughley are no longer part of the Orchard county squad.
McShane was a regular in the early stages off the side’s Division Two campaign although Grugan and McCaughley were only involved during the Dr McKenna Cup.
The April club month has allowed some of Kieran McGeeney’s side to build up their fitness ahead of that meeting in Newry.
Ethan Rafferty and Paddy Burns both made their first starts of the season in the National League round seven loss to Cork and they have continued to get minutes under belt with their clubs over the last two weeks.
Rafferty has delivered two excellent performances from midfield as Grange defeated Crossmaglen’s second team and Carrickcruppen, while Burns has also been involved with Forkhill.
Andrew Murnin didn’t feature for St Paul’s in their first two games but the versatile attacker is still hoping to be fit for the Down game as he recovers from a knee problem.
“It’s been going on since last year so I need to get it sorted out,” he told the Irish News last month.
“I’m hoping to be back for the first round of the Championship and I’m on track for that at the minute”.