GAA Football

Down county board hold fire on senior management decision

James McCartan's Down were relegated to Division Three last season. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
Andy Watters

NO decision was taken on Down's senior football management at last night's meeting of the county board.

Current manager James McCartan was persuaded to answer an SOS and take the Down reins for a second time in November last year. His tenure was originally to be for the 2022 season only but it is understood that the Burren clubman could be prepared to extend his stay and regain the ground lost in a difficult first year at the helm during which Down failed to win a match.

Dr McKenna Cup losses to Antrim and Donegal were followed by relegation to Division Three after six defeats and a single draw against Meath, a result that represented the high-point of Down's season. Following that draw in Navan, members of Kilcoo's All-Ireland Club Championship-winning team returned to the squad, but the expected improvement in form failed to materialise and Down finished bottom of Division Two with the second-lowest scoring tally in the four divisions.

Championship form was no better. Down were hammered by Monaghan in Ulster and the draw for the Tailteann Cup was unkind – McCartan's men drew Cavan in Breffni Park and the result was predictably one-sided. In the build-up to that game there were regular reports of players leaving the squad and a wealth of talent, including Kilcoo's Johnston brothers, Ryan, Jerome and Shealan, didn't feature at any stage. Since the season ended, Kevin McKernan has announced his retirement.

However, McCartan – who guided Down to the All-Ireland final in 2010 during his first spell in charge - is thought to be willing to lead a recovery next year. It is understood that the two-time All-Ireland winner is confident that time to watch club games and run trials and having a full pre-season with his squad will enable him to give a true account of himself in 2023. According to reports, former Donegal Allstar Karl Lacey is a potential target for McCartan's management team for next season.

A decision on Down's senior management is expected to be made at the next county board meeting in early August.

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GAA Football