GAA Football

James McCartan returns as Down manager with Aidan O'Rourke confirmed as assistant

James McCartan has returned for a second spell as Down manager
Andy Watters

JAMES McCartan has returned for a second spell as manager of the Down senior footballers with Aidan O’Rourke confirmed as his assistant.

McCartan came agonisingly close to winning “the greatest prize” when he guided Down to the 2010 All-Ireland final in the first of his five seasons as manager from 2010 to 2014. His side lost to Cork by a single point at Croke Park but they remained among the contenders and reached a National League semi-final and the Ulster final two years’ later.

A bona fide Mourne county legend, McCartan was the attacking focal point alongside Mickey Linden in the Down sides that won the Sam Maguire in 1991 and 1994 when he followed in the footsteps of his late father, James senior, who won All-Ireland titles in 1960 and 1961.

His experienced assistant Aidan O’Rourke was wing-back on the Armagh team that won the All-Ireland in 2002 and went on to dominate the Ulster Championship throughout the noughties.

As a manager, Dromintee native O’Rourke guided Louth to a fourth-place finish in Division Two and has since had spells as assistant-manager of his native Armagh and with Down during McCartan’s previous term as bainisteoir.

There had been speculation that Down would appoint Conor Laverty as manager with Marty Clarke and Donegal All-Ireland winner Jim McGuinness in his backroom team. Negotiations with McGuinness reached an advanced stage before they broke down and Laverty and Clarke – both members of Down’s 2010 panel under McCartan – will remain with the Down U20s.

McCartan and O’Rourke take over from Tyrone native Paddy Tally who succeeded in taking Down to Division Two in his second season in charge and consolidated their place there in his third. However, a heavy defeat at the hands of Donegal brought the curtain down on Tally’s three-year tenure and he has since become part of Jack O’Connor’s management team in Kerry.

Down were in Division Two when McCartan succeeded former team-mate Ross Carr as manager in 2009. The former Tullylish and Burren clubman managed to inspire the Mournemen to top-flight promotion and the All-Ireland final in his first season.

Down supporters will hope for more of the same in his second spell.

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GAA Football