Lowly Mourne have mountain to climb

When the disaffected demand change, they should have a fairly spectacular back-up plan at the ready.

Down's Aidan Carr challenges Clare's Gary Brennan during the Allianz Football League match at Cusack Park Ennis on Sunday.

The red and black roulette wheel that is Down football just won’t stop spinning and even if their latest gamble hasn’t paid off there’s no clue, no certainty, as to where the chips should be placed next.

Results would suggest that Down, currently in possession of the second worst losing streak in league and championship football history, are reeling from one bad bet to another. At all levels they are in trouble.

The senior manager is the public face of this sorry downward spiral of despair, but the blame for Down’s current troubles cannot be heaped solely on Eamonn Burns. Those calling for him to walk away after 16 stressful months in charge haven’t been equally as vociferous as regards to whom his replacement should be. And would a new manager suddenly make everything rosy anyway?

Down fans are worried. The unexpected run to the 2010 All-Ireland final aside, they have fallen further and further behind and results at all levels are chronic.

No Ulster or All-Ireland title since 1994 at senior level, they haven’t won a match at U21 level in four years. The record at minor level is even worse. They won the 2009 Ulster minor title but the last decade is a write-off.

The current malaise has reached a state of emergency.

The Mourne County are without a win in league or championship football since April 2015, against Laois. The losing streak now stretches to 14 league and championship matches.

And with some difficult Division Two fixtures to come, they could come close to matching the Waterford footballers who own the GAA’s worst ever losing run with 17 successive defeats between 2003 and 2005.

The county can’t keep looking to their heroes from 1991 and 1994 for the answers but in the short term, they should improve things.

Ross Carr recently headed up Club Down, which should bring in investment badly needed to prop up a flailing coaching infrastructure. James McCartan is with the minors, Conor Deegan with the U21s and Paddy O’Rourke is with the development squad.

Yet too many of Down’s wounds are self-inflicted. When James McCartan walked away after five relatively successful years in charge in 2012, Tony McEntee let it be known he was interested in the job.

With a fine pedigree as a player and two All-Ireland club titles as manager of Crossmaglen behind him, the Armagh man was more than worthy of consideration.

The county’s top administrators baulked at his ambition, looking instead at Jim McCorry whose domestic record with Mayobride and Kilcoo made him a solid appointment. His surprise departure after one promotion-winning season was badly handled all round.

Now, somehow, Down have reached a stage where five-in-a-row champions Kilcoo weren’t represented by a single starting player in either of their opening two league defeats against Fermanagh and Clare.

Those were winnable fixtures that were lost by a combined total of 15 points. Players have walked. Confidence is shot to pieces and the teams lacks a sense of purpose or direction on the field. Meath, another shining example of a second-tier county unable to recapture former glories, will be next to step up to the roulette wheel in Pairc Esler on Saturday week.

Down need a change of fortune, and then some.

Maybe they’ll get lucky, but in this game you make your own luck.


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