McCartan picks up pieces for Down

McCartan picks up pieces for Down

Down manager James McCartan was typically honest and measured as he reflected on yesterday's 0-16 to 0-15 loss to Cork, which saw the Mourne County's unblemished record in All-Ireland SFC finals come to an end.

Down's class of 2010 ventured to Croke Park trying to maintain their county's proud record in Sam Maguire Cup deciders - they had won on each of their previous final appearances in 1960, 1961, 1968, 1991 and 1994.

"On a personal level, it wasn't so much six out of six (wins that was motivating me), it was just trying to pay tribute to the 1960 team," said McCartan.

"Obviously I had strong family ties to that team so that was a wee personal thing that was probably in my head and driving me. But losing an All-Ireland final, as regards it being a sixth one, was irrelevant to me and I think it was irrelevant to the players as well."

Those are the ties which bind a county - the McCartan name is, of course, synonymous with Gaelic football in Down. James' younger brother Daniel, who lined out at right corner back yesterday, was bidding to continue a family tradition of winning All-Irelands, following on from James senior, his uncle Dan and of course his current manager.

Looking back on the 70-plus minutes of football which had just unfolded in front of him, Down boss McCartan felt that his side struggled around midfield, and that ultimately Cork's dominance in this area helped them win out.

"I did feel the midfield sector was a problem. Ambrose (Rogers) wasn't available. I thought the guys that were in there were the best for the job but it was a problem. Primary possession was a problem...but our options were limited.

"(Dan) was there for the last few minutes. We didn't want to do it but we felt we needed it.

"Maybe it should have been done earlier and I hold my hands up. We had problems there and maybe Benny McArdle should have slotted in (at full-back).

"We think we have a squad that can compete year in, year out. It's easy saying that...doing it is another thing, especially when you have to come through the Ulster Championship again next year and you'll be in some very difficult game.

"Getting back to Croke Park seems a million miles away. But it's the target that we'll be setting."

But while he was clearly hurting inside at the pain of an All-Ireland final defeat, McCartan did not forget to pay tribute to a Cork squad that bounced back from experiencing their own anguish in the past three years.

"We tried the best we could. With 10 minutes ago it looked like Cork were going to win comfortably and I'm just delighted that our guys dug in, showed a bit of spirit and dragged it back," he added.

"Maybe a draw would been an unfair result but it's one we'd have taken. Maybe on the two halves we might have, but certainly in the second half Cork were deserving winners."

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