GAA Football

Clonduff veteran Aidan Carr eager to grab semi-final opportunity

Aidan Carr is one of the more experienced campaigners on a youthful Clonduff side, who will face Burren in Sunday's Down SFC semi-final. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

IN the week leading up to a crucial championship clash, it can be hard to shift thoughts away from the big day - over-thinking what your opponents might do, how best to expose their weaknesses.

Aidan Carr has had no such issues in the lead up to Clonduff’s semi-final showdown against Burren on Sunday. With wife Marie expecting their third child any day, the former Down ace has plenty to occupy his mind away from the football field.

“Hopefully I’m at the match,” he laughs.

“I’ve been going to training all week with my phone on loud, relying on one of the boys from the management team to let me know if it rings.

“It’s any time now, really.”

At 36, Carr needs no lessons in how to manage himself when a big game looms. Yet, for all the welcome distraction of their impending arrival, the Hilltown man knows that seizing every opportunity is imperative at this stage of his career.

Dad Ross was 35 when, after almost two decades wearing the yellow jersey, he finally got his hands on the Frank O’Hare Cup in 2000. That was the last Down championship they won.

Burren stand between Clonduff and only a third final since, the margin for error decreasing with each year that passes.

“You want to make the chances count a wee bit more,” he says.

“I remember earlier in my career, Clonduff were always seen as having a chance of causing an upset on any given day, but two championship finals since we last won it isn’t great. It’s not where we want to be.

“When you’re younger you maybe have a belief that you’ll be challenging year in, year out, but it doesn’t always work like that. Unfortunately I’ve found that out.

“Consistency has been a big problem for us – doing it year on year, but also consistently backing up performances. It’s probably a reason why we aren’t challenging as much as we want to.

“You only have to look at the likes of Kilcoo, Burren, Warrenpoint consistently challenging for leagues and championship. That’s where we want to be. It’s great to have the potential or ability, but unless you do anything with it, it’s very frustrating. Years slip by very quickly.

“You can make all the plans in the world at the start of a year but unless you back them up, you’re back to square one. As you get older, you know you can’t take anything for granted.

“Semi-finals, never mind finals, don’t always come around.”

Carr called time on his inter-county career in 2017, bringing the curtain down after 11 years in red and black, and he will be an interested observer as the proposals for Championship reform go before Special Congress tomorrow.

His family has a long and proud connection with the Ulster Championship, but Carr believes the “negative narrative” around the potential ramifications contained within Proposal B shows a lack of imagination.

“Change is needed,” he said.

“They’re afraid of diluting the Ulster Championship, but it’s also a massive opportunity to market it on its own. It’s still going to mean the same to any Ulster county to win it. Since the back door came in, the provincial Championships haven’t meant the same in terms of providing a pathway towards the All-Ireland anyway.

“The only people who are going to demean the Ulster Championship, or make it seem like a subsidiary competition, are potentially the Ulster Council and county managers.

“If managers choose to treat it like the McKenna Cup, that’s on them. That’s nothing to do with Proposal B. I believe they have a unique opportunity to market it as a standalone Championship – it has so much potential.

“Out of change comes opportunity, and you make of it what you want to.”

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