'We have learned that we have players who are fit to play for Down,' says Mourne boss James McCartan
CONCERNS that Down wing-back Caolan Mooney could miss the start of the National League with a broken jaw after last Tuesday night’s Dr McKenna Cup loss have proved to be unfounded.
The RGU Downpatrick clubman had an x-ray at Daisy Hill Hospital after the two-point defeat to Antrim but results confirmed that no serious damage had been done. That is good news for manager James McCartan who also had to withdraw injured John McGeough and midfield pair Liam Middleton and Anthony Doherty on Tuesday night.
After a first round defeat to Donegal, the loss scuppered Down’s chances of reaching the knockout phase of the competition and with a challenging Division Two campaign beginning in a fortnight’s time McCartan cannot afford a packed treatment room at this stage.
“I suppose when you don’t get much of a lead-in time we are asking guys to get up to speed quickly and they are being thrown into the cut-and-thrust of inter-county football, while other counties maybe had a few weeks’ head-start on us,” said McCartan.
Down used 31 players over their two Dr McKenna Cup games – both ended in two-point defeats. There were a number of debuts and seven players started both games and McCartan saw positive signs and some encouraging passages of football.
“What have I learned from the two games? I suppose we are looking for (new) players and looking at some who have been there before and are coming back,” he said.
“We have learned that we have players who are fit to play for Down. We had a lot of debutants the last night (against Donegal) and a few more experienced boys back against Antrim. I am not saying we had two completely different teams but certainly they weren’t the same teams. So we have a lot of players to make decisions on and pick from.
“We were happy with the performances at times and obviously at other times we weren’t. But again, we blooded a lot of players. If we had enough players, we wouldn’t have started any of the players that started the last day against Antrim but we haven’t enough players. We had to ask a lot of the boys and the boys that started the two games started to break down.”
Mayobridge forward Corey Quinn and Burren speedster Liam Kerr are two players who haven’t featured so far who will certainly be in McCartan’s plans for the National League.
So too will several from county champions Kilcoo but their availability depends on how far the Magpies go in their club campaign: The Ulster final is on Sunday, the All-Ireland semi-final is on January 29 (the same day Down begin Division Two with a trip to Owenbeg) and the final on February 13.
“There are 44 names on a page and that doesn’t include anyone from Kilcoo, so you are hoping that there would be a contingent there if things work out,” said McCartan.
“Liam (Kerr) is still coming back from his shoulder injury and he was training for the first-time last week, so he is a way to go too.
“We are going to play Derry on their home patch and they are obviously on the up over the last couple of years and going in the right direction and it is not going to be an easy task but that is what inter-county football is and we have to look forward to the challenges and see if we can get the best out of this bunch of players.
“Obviously, we want to get off to a good start as I am sure Derry do and to pick up a couple of points in Derry would be some achievement and then the next day is at home against Galway.
“There are no easy games in Division Two but at the same time, I would like to think we can get points.”