GAA Football

Colm Flanagan glad he was persuaded to stay on with Down

Colm Flanagan has praised Down team-mates Kevin McKernan and Benny McArdle for making his Ulster Championship debut against Antrim a little bit easier

DOWN's new man-marker Colm Flanagan revealed he was close to stepping away from the Mourne panel at the end of last season – but insisted the camaraderie in the team kept him on board.

The Castlewellan clubman was drafted onto the senior panel last summer as cover and wasn't intending to return in 2018.

However, a face-to-face meeting with manager Eamonn Burns and the welcoming vibe in the squad persuaded him to commit for a second season.

“Last year I took a wee bit of a break from the club scene and then I came back,” he said.

“After a matter of weeks Eamonn [Burns] called me in just before the Championship last year. I was in two minds whether to come in or not.

“I had a chat on the phone with Eamonn and then I met up with him and he talked me round. He told me his plans. I came to one session, the boys were really welcoming and I really enjoyed the craic. If it wasn't for this group of players I probably wouldn't have stayed on because the commitment is tough.”

Flanagan added:“I'm getting married at the end of the year and I'm building a house as well. If the atmosphere and morale wasn't as good I wouldn't be here.

“These boys kept me at it and once or twice they've had to talk me round in sticking at it and I'm glad I have. Eamonn has given me a chance and I hope I can repay him at the end of it.”

Flanagan (28), a recognised wing-back with Castlewellan, was worth investing in and has quickly emerged as Down's most effective man-marker.

He's shaded virtually all of his duels this year, marking Colm O'Neill of Cork and Dermot Murtagh of Roscommon during the League.

He made his Ulster Championship debut against Antrim last month where he marked Ryan Murray.

“I was nervous coming into the Antrim game but playing alongside this group of players – but the likes of Kevin McKernan and Benny McArdle were chatting to me and talking me through it, which was a big help. I enjoyed it and I eased my way into the game.

“Gearoid [Adams, Down coach] has worked well with the defenders and he's talked me through a few games. I'm not a natural corner-back; I play half-back for my club and then I got a man-marking role and I've embraced it ever since. I was marking Ryan Murray who is a great player but I enjoyed the task and enjoyed the battle.”

The big dilemma for the Down management team ahead of Sunday's Ulster semi-final is whether Flanagan gets the nod to man-mark the in-form Patrick McBrearty or Jamie Brennan. Donegal's blinding pace in their full-forward line may force Down to move Darren O'Hagan from wing-back to the corner to shadow either McBrearty or Brennan.

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GAA Football