McCartan puts Down on high alert of Lilywhite backlash
OUSTING Kerry from their throne will be completely forgotten if Down don't go on and, at least, reach the All-Ireland final, according to manager James McCartan ahead of next Sunday's semi-final against Kildare.
And the former Mourne ace has revealed that he is expecting a major backlash from the Lilywhites because of what his team did to them in his first game in charge this season.
When Down travelled to Newbridge in early February for their opening National Football League Division 2 game, they gave Kieran McGeeney's side an 11-point spanking (1-16 to 0-8) in their own back yard.
"At the press conference afterwards I remember telling people that I hoped we wouldn't meet that team again because I know McGeeney and (selector Aidan) O'Rourke well," McCartan said.
"I knew they could use that game as all the motivation they need to put one over on us and now here we are again, months later.
"Looking back at the programme, I think there are only six or seven of that (Kildare) team left and maybe only one of them in the same position, so they are transformed from the league.
"Actually they're transformed from the first round of the championship and the first round of the qualifiers.
"They have made changes week-on-week and upped their performances every week too, so we are certainly not looking back on that Kildare game thinking we have anything over on them. If anything it's the other way around now."
McCartan conceded that while he may not have expected to reach an All-Ireland semi-final in his rookie season in inter-county management, his confidence grew with his team.
"Every game we went into this year we felt we could win it and we certainly felt we could beat Kerry," he revealed.
"In every game this year, whenever we put the match-ups down, man-for-man, we felt we'd a really good chance of winning it and nothing changes against Kildare."
Yet while he admitted that their sensational defeat of Kerry was certainly "a morale booster" he stressed that Down cannot let their season end there because "at the minute we've won nothing".
"OK, we're in the championship a bit longer than Tyrone but in future years Tyrone will be able to look back and say they've won an Ulster title whereas, at the minute, we've nothing to show for it, so hopefully we have more to do," he said.
His young side did learn some valuable lessons from their Ulster semi-final defeat by Tyrone, he admitted.
"We probably learned from that period in the first half when things were going swimmingly and then things were going poorly and confidence ebbed out of the team," he said.
"We talked about that and pledged that it wouldn't happen again, and where I saw that most was when Kerry got their run of four points and then that disallowed goal against us.
"When Tyrone got that period of domination we weren't able to respond to it but against Kerry Marty Clarke got the ball and stuck it over and then the point directly after that kick-started us again and we scored another two before half-time.
"Every team is going to get their period of domination and, against Kerry, we were able to come back from it."