McCartan hopes for dream start back at the helm

McCartan hopes for dream start back at the helm

5 January 2022

DOWN manager James McCartan will be looking for a dream start to his return at the helm this Friday when his Mourne side take on Donegal in the first round of the Dr McKenna Cup.

The red and black outfit will travel to MacCumhail Park for a 7.30pm throw-in, in what will be the first piece of action for the county this year.

The returning fan favourite will not be under any illusions as to the level of stiff competition his footballers will face off against, as they travel to the home of last year’s Ulster semi-finalists.

Antrim are the other outfit that make up Section A, with Down welcoming the Saffrons to Newry in their second game next Tuesday.

McCartan has already faced adversities in his second stint as boss before his team have even lined out, due to a number of regular Mourne players ruled out of contention.

Carryduff duo James Guinness and Owen McCabe, Bryansford shot-stopper Marc Reid and experienced Burren duo Gerard McGovern and Donal O’Hare are among those unavailable.

The former All-Star man in charge, alongside assistant Aidan O’Rourke, have already began drafting in suitable replacements and have recently been given a notable boost in the form of returning former captain Niall McParland.

The Glenn clubman has returned following three years teaching in Doha, Qatar, and will be someone who McCartan looks to in order to bring his wealth of experience to the rest of the side –especially those who are up and coming talents.

“The squad has changed but it’s good to see some new faces in the panel,” said McParland.

“James and Aidan have a handle on everyone in the county and they have a good squad together so far.

“I was happy to get the call to go back because I didn’t know if I would get it – I don’t take anything for granted,” he continued.

“Now I’m fighting for my place in the team.”

Alongside this encouraging news for the county, current star Barry O’Hagan believes Down could benefit even further from an influx of Kilcoo players.

However, the current champions of Down are currently hoping to retain their Ulster title when they face off against Derrygonnelly on January 16, which will see them out of action until things unfold.

With this meaning they will not be available for selection for the Dr McKenna Cup, this doesn’t necessarily rule out some of the panel featuring in the Division Two league campaign.

“At the minute, there’s probably eight or nine of them you would definitely want in,” said O’Hagan.

“Whether they commit or not I don’t know, it’s up to those men, but you need the talent and the experience those boys have.

“Obviously their full focus is on Kilcoo at the minute, as you’d expect.”