Hurling and camogie

Former Down hurling boss Mickey Johnston backs new managerial team

Former Down hurling boss Michael Johnston decided against a third year in charge  

OUT-GOING Down senior hurling manager Mickey Johnston has backed the new Ards managerial team for 2017 and has no regrets about declining a third year in charge.

In a statement, the county board announced that former Down players Marty Mallon (Portaferry), Gary Savage (Ballycran), Paul Coulter (Ballygalget) and Jerome McCrickard (Liatroim) would take the hurling reins next season.

Johnston, who spent two fruitful years with the Ards men, said it was a “good call” by county officers to have Down people running Down hurling.

“I think it’s only right Antrim people take charge of Antrim and I’m glad to see the same thing is happening in Down now,” said Johnston.

“I think it’s vitally important that their own county men look after it. I suppose when I went in, Down didn’t have that. It was always the understanding with the Down County Board that if there was a Down [management] team willing to take it, that was the right thing to do.”

The St John’s man always regarded himself as “an interim manager” in Down and feels the right men are in charge ahead of 2017: “There was an offer to stay for a third year but I didn’t want to take the offer on,” Johnston said, who is busy taking teams at his native west Belfast club.

“It would have been easy to stick with the status quo but I enjoyed the two years there. If people are ready and they want to step up, give them a go at it,” said Johnston.

“The likes of Paul Coulter is doing great work with the Down Colleges team and has done great work with the development squads right through, so it’s a natural progression.

“I’m delighted the four lads are taking over. They took the U21s this season and they put their hand up and want to put their shoulder to the wheel. All these guys wore the county jersey with distinction and they know the hurling scene in Down inside out.”

Johnston did fine work during a transitional period in Down hurling. The big regret will be falling to Antrim in the Christy Ring semi-finals in Loughgiel earlier this year when they played the better hurling.

“I worked with a great bunch of fellas and I’m delighted to have got the opportunity to work with them - the likes of young Brooke Briers, Oisín McManus, Ruairí Campbell - these lads were unearthed through the Ulster colleges teams and the minor and U21 set-up, as well as John McManus and James McGrath.”

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Hurling and camogie