Pat Cunningham to be Down's new minor football manager
PAT Cunningham was ratified as the new manager of the Down minor footballers last night.
The former Ballymartin player succeeds James McCartan in the role and has assembled an impressive backroom team that includes former Down midfielder Ambrose Rodgers (also a county coaching officer) and Down Games Development manager Conor O'Toole as coaches and Carryduff duo DJ Morgan and Paddy Doherty as selectors. It is understood that Kilcoo's Aaron Branagan will undertake a role as strength and conditioning coach.
Burren-based Cunningham's appointment reflects his impressive track record with the Down development squads and indicates that his county board intends to establish a pathway from underage squads through to minor level.
Other management teams considered for the position are understood to have included: John Fegan, Conor O'Neill, Peter Turley and Mark Miskelly; Mickey McVeigh; Mickey Walsh, Mickey Linden and Collie McCrickard; Ross Carr, Gareth Thornton and Neil Coulter; Eamon and Greg Blayney; Dominic McEvoy.
James McCartan, a two-time Sam Maguire winner with Down in the 1990s, succeeded his former county manager Pete McGrath in the post in 2015. Down have now gone 21 years (since 1999) without an Ulster title at minor level but they did capture the All-Ireland minor crown in 2005 after losing the provincial decider to Armagh.
Last year the Mourne youngsters were among the favourites to win the Ulster crown but lost out to Fermanagh at the quarter-final stage in late December.