THE return of Caolan Mooney in Down colours will have given “everybody a lift” after the Downpatrick clubman played his first game for his county in almost two years.
Mooney quit the Down panel after they exited the Ulster Championship to Monaghan in 2022 while a serious knee injury later that same year put any thoughts of an inter-county return on the back burner.
He might have played some role in Conor Laverty’s first year in charge in 2023 – but has declared this season and played the first 35 minutes in the win over Limerick at Pairc Esler last Saturday night.
“It’s brilliant to see Caolan on the pitch,” said Down selector Declan Morgan. “I think every Down supporter will be very happy to see that. He’s worked so hard. He had a terrible injury and has worked really hard to get back. But I think he gave everybody a lift around the place.”
Injured duo Danny Magill and Micael Rooney are “fairly close” but Barry O’Hagan’s return after a serious knee injury sustained 12 months ago is further down the tracks.
Down have claimed full points from their opening two games in Division Three (Wicklow and Limerick) and face a tricky test against Antrim at Corrigan Park after the mini-NFL break ends on Sunday February 18.
On the unlikely return to county colours of Kevin Anderson, Morgan was full of praise for the Annaclone veteran.
“It’s a brilliant story for someone who was out of it for so long and thought their inter-county career was over and is back playing inter-county football. He’s such a great fella.
“Anybody in Down will tell you that. He is so well respected in our panel and has been a breath of fresh air.”
Anderson has returned to Down after a nine-year absence and finds himself as one of the squad’s goalkeepers. He came on for the last 15 minutes against Limerick.
“He definitely has the skills [for goalkeeper] because he played out the field for Down when he was here originally and then he played soccer for Banbridge Town for a long time at centre half.
“He’s a lovely foot on him and he can strike a ball, and thankfully he’s put that to good practice with us and Annaclone.”