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14th Apr 2022

County board “resolve matter” with manager James McCartan but Down still in big trouble

Lee Costello

“Players have accepted responsibility and have rectified the situation.”

Rumours emerged last week that Down senior football manager James McCartan had left his position following a breach of squad rules at a training camp in Dublin.

The news first made its way to me via a WhatsApp group, when a message that was ‘forwarded many times’ explained that the Down legend was furious at players for breaking certain rules, and will be stepping down.

Now, as wonderfully entertaining as WhatsApp groups are, one of its unintended uses appears to be the role of GAA whispers, where every week some new rumour makes its way around.

Of course the majority of these are absolutely bogus, and I won’t even repeat some of the things that people ‘crossed their heart and hoped to die’ on due to the sheer ridiculousness of them.

However, sometimes a true one does slip through the net, and rumours have been confirmed that McCartan had left the player’s GAA WhatsApp group, and intended to resign from the role.

Speaking to the Gaelic Life, Down County Secretary Sean Óg McAteer said: “The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of everybody. Players have accepted responsibility and have rectified the situation.

“Everybody will be at training on Friday night, that’s when we were due to train next and everybody will be there.”

On the surface that is all well and good, but it’s impossible to ignore that something is currently very wrong with the County Down set-up.

First the clubs had a vote on whether last year’s manager, Paddy Tally, would stay on, and although the majority said he would, Tally felt that too many thought otherwise for him to productively progress as The Mourne’s manager.

Then, it took months to find his replacement, with the rumour mill churning ferociously, and at one point, it seemed dead certain that Jim McGuinness would be making a return to the GAA alongside Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty.

A bizarre match-up, but apparently one that was very much in discussion, and although it did fizzle out, the wait continued up until late November, just over a month before the season was to start, before announcing McCartan.

The Tullylish man is one of the most respected and iconic figures in Ulster, for his All-Ireland successes and unbelievable talent when he was a player himself.

Then in 2010, he spearheaded his county to the All-Ireland final in his first stint as manager, beating a legendary Kerry team along the way – so many would be hoping for a similar rise this time around.

However, Down champions Kilcoo may have won the All-Ireland club title, but their success was very much isolated to that region as the county exited the McKenna Cup and endured a very poor league season.

James McCartan, Down, 26/5/96. Photograph © David Maher SPORTSFILE.

They have now been relegated to Division Two, with the only a single point on the board coming as a result of a draw against Meath.

Many in The Mournes would have been hoping to see more of the All-Ireland club winning players make a return to the panel, but the inclusion of Kilcoo players has been very limited.

Now, with the championship on the horizon, this debacle during a training camp emerges, and one has to wonder, what on earth happened to Down?

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