No Championship return for Down star Caolan Mooney confirms Marty Clarke

Caolan Mooney won't feature for Down this year but the door is open for him to return, says Marty Clarke. Pic Philip Walsh.
Caolan Mooney won't feature for Down this year but the door is open for him to return, says Marty Clarke. Pic Philip Walsh. Caolan Mooney won't feature for Down this year but the door is open for him to return, says Marty Clarke. Pic Philip Walsh.

CAOLAN Mooney will not feature for Down this season, assistant-manager Marty Clarke has confirmed.

The flying wing-back from Rostrevor had reconstructive surgery on a knee injury in September and Clarke says this season “will come a bit too soon” for his former Aussie Rules team-mate.

Struggling with a torn cruciate ligament, Mooney left the Down panel last May and there were concerns that the RGU Downpatrick would not be seen in the red and black jersey again. However, Clarke says the former county skipper will be welcome back when he regains full fitness.

“I know that he has been very diligent in his recovery but this year will come a bit too soon for him,” said Clarke.

“We have kept in touch with him. I know Caolan from our time in Australia (at Collingwood) and he’s obviously a player we would love to have on our hands and it would be great to have his quality there if we’re in the job for another few years.”

Down now have a relatively lengthy break before they host Donegal in the Ulster Championship at Pairc Esler on April 23. Other counties don’t have that luxury – Sligo and Mayo are both in League finals this weekend and begin their Connacht Championship campaigns on April 8 and 9 respectively.

“It’s a heavy workload,” said Clarke.

“I do like the games coming thick-and-fast and I know the players feel the same but we’re fortunate to have a gap now and I’d maybe be saying different if were out in two weeks’ or if we were playing a League final this weekend and had the Championship the following week.

“That’s something we (the GAA) can look at. This is the first year we’ve gone down this road and we can see how it goes and then tweak it.

“We have to remember that we’re leaving extra room for the club season. Yes, maybe it is a bit condensed but it’s the same for every team and the prize is that the club players get a good portion of the season.”

Down finished third in Division Three with 10 points. Defeats to eventual top two Fermanagh and Cavan meant promotion was beyond them but, despite that disappointment, Clarke says valuable lessons were learned in every game.

“We don’t have any complaints – we got to 10 points and generally if you get to 10 more often than not you do get out,” he said.

“Getting a look at players in pressure situations and how they performed was a great learning curve for us but, at the end of the day, we are disappointed with it.”

Down were two points up against Fermanagh but a late Sean Quigley goal saw the Ernemen snatch the victory that saw them force their way up to Division Two. The Mourne management team scrutinised the build-up to the goal and identified “25 or 30” issues in their team’s defending.

“We watched the entire passage of play that led to that goal from behind the goals and there was probably 25 or 30 things that we would have wanted the boys to do differently before it ultimately led to Quigley taking that goal,” Clarke explained.

“It was difficult to watch to be honest but the learnings from it were quite significant and that’s the way you have to go about it, you have to accept it and try and learn from it.”

Losing that game and then to Cavan in round five meant Down couldn’t go up but manager Conor Laverty challenged the players to maintain their intensity and the Mournemen won their remaining League fixtures against Longford and Offaly.