Vice-captain Coulter ready for big day

Vice-captain Coulter ready for big day

Benny Coulter has come a long way since picking up an All-Ireland MFC medal at Croke Park in 1999. Can he help Down end their wait for All-Ireland senior glory this weekend against Cork?

"After 1999 we thought that we would be back in these positions (contesting All-Ireland finals) every two or three years, especially playing for Down who have a great tradition and great footballers," said the vice captain.

"It has taken us 11 years to get back to here, and it has been a hard 11 years. We have got to grasp this opportunity and see can we take it and hopefully we can."

Coulter says that there is an amazing atmosphere within the Down camp at present.

"The boys are all buzzing and raring to go and hopefully we can grasp it and take it and achieve our ultimate aim, which is winning the Sam Maguire Cup."

The Mayobridge clubman has a great familiarity with some of the Cork players. He soldiered with Rebels captain Graham Canty, Anthony Lynch, Alan Quirke, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Nicholas Murphy, Setanta O hAilpin, John Miskella and Pearse O'Neill at various stages on International Rules duty for Ireland between 2003 and 2008.

"They are very professional players," he explained.

"Graham, Pearse and John were with us for the last tour we had over in Australia. They are a great bunch of lads, but it will be different on Sunday when we are tearing into them!"

Coulter recognises that Sunday's opponents are a strong force, and he has been watching their All-Ireland campaigns of recent years with great interest.

"Cork have been very impressive over the last couple of years. The only team that they haven't beaten (in big All-Ireland games) has been Kerry.

"I suppose there is going to be a big task ahead of us. They haven't been playing as well this year as they were last year.

"But I suppose on the up side of that there is always one decent game in a side and they will be looking at it like that, to try and find their 'A' game for the All-Ireland final.

"We will certainly be trying to stop that happening."

Coulter believes that the watershed moment for Down this season was their loss to Tyrone in the Ulster SFC semi-final, and a realisation that his side were going to have to pick up the pieces quickly or face a quiet summer.

"That was definitely the big turning point for us," he said.

"I have said before that after that Tyrone match we could have went to pieces and boys could have quit and we could have fell out.

"We could have blamed the manager and we could have blamed the players, but we all took it on board and moved on.

"I definitely think that was a big turning point in the year, that meeting we had the Tuesday night after the Tyrone match I definitely think was a massive turning point for this team," he added.

Reflecting on the Mourne men's run through the qualifier route, which included wins over Longford, Offaly and Sligo, Coulter said that they had to deal with plenty of ups and downs.

"Against Offaly we should have been ten points down at half-time. Against Longford we didn't play that well either.

"You have to take the good with the bad, I suppose against Sligo we were super and nothing went wrong for us that day.

"We are here now in the final and I think we are here on merit, so it's good to be here and everyone is delighted."

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