Towering Fitzpatrick fills Rodgers void
DOWN will go into battle against Kildare tomorrow without their injured midfield captain Ambrose Rodgers.
The Longstone man damaged his cruciate in a club game after their quarter-final defeat of Kerry and while there remains speculation that he may yet play some part, his starting spot has been given to Ballymartin's Peter Fitzpatrick, one of the stars of the county's 2009 U-21 team.
James McCartan had looked at the option of moving former midfielder Dan Gordon out of his new full-back role to shore them up at centre-field, but he has noticeably not disrupted a defence that has steadied up so much under his management.
At 6' 3" Fitzpatrick (21) will give the Mournes a similar target man and this will be the second time that he has deputised for Rodgers in a big game at Croke Park this year.
He filled in for him in the Division 2 NFL final against Armagh, which the unlucky Down captain also missed with a foot injury.
Unlike Down, Kildare have named their injured midfielder -- All Star Dermot Earley -- in their starting line-up, but have confirmed that he faces a fitness test on his knee beforehand and is a serious doubt. If Earley doesn't start Hugh Lynch is expected to partner Daryl Flynn.
Westmeath, meanwhile, have appointed Pat Flanagan as senior football manager for 2011. A county board meeting last night ratified the Offaly native after he beat off the challenge of Dessie Dolan Snr, the only other candidate.
DOWN (SF v Kildare) -- B McVeigh; D McCartan, D Gordon, D Rafferty; D Rooney, K McKernan, C Garvey; P Fitzpatrick, K King; D Hughes, M Poland, P McComiskey; B Coulter, J Clarke, M Clarke.