Sunday 18 February 2018

Coulter admits Mourne caught 'square' break to edge titanic struggle

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

BENNY Coulter is the kind of guy who wears his footballing heart on his sleeve -- and he couldn't even tuck it up his cuff when the inevitable question came afterwards.

Before the direct query about his 'square-ball' goal was even made, it was first put to victorious manager James McCartan that his side had got their share of luck.

"When you are along the line, you don't see a lot of the marginal incidents," the Down boss said. "If the goal was a square-ball, we will take the bit of luck."

Coulter, slumped red-faced and exhausted next to him, couldn't suppress a grin and interjected honestly: "I think it was, yeah!" No surprise there then, nor with McCartan's admission that his head was "still reeling".

The baby-faced Down manager looked to have visibly aged in the preceding hour, which he described as "helter-skelter".

"With seven or eight minutes to go we were six points up, but I certainly knew the game wasn't won," McCartan said.

"You'd hope to close it out from there, but typical of Kieran McGeeney and Aidan O'Rourke's team, they kept coming and coming. Hugh Lynch stuck over a couple of wonder scores and then the goal came.

"We were probably hanging on at the end, to see the ball hit the crossbar, we were just relieved to see it stay out." Ten years after making his senior debut, Coulter (28) admitted he could not believe what was unfolding in those final frenetic moments, when he heard referee Pat McEnaney say there was just 10 seconds left.

"I thought they had to score direct, but then Pat left it go for a second or two afterwards and I was just thinking 'we can't lose this now!'," Coulter said.

"We worked so hard this year that we weren't going to throw it away in the last 10 seconds. We weren't letting that ball go into the net, we were going to get anything on it and big Kalum (King) got a hand on it, onto the crossbar."


McCartan revealed that his side's ability to score had always given him hope. "We kept the scoreboard ticking over. The odd point here and there, against the run of play, pushed us over the line. I still felt that, like Down teams I played on, we were still a scoring threat and that was the thing."

So, 50 years after the Mourne men's famous 1960 breakthrough, would he now admit to feeling the hand of history on his team's shoulder? "The history is meaningless -- we would like to create our own piece of history," McCartan said, though he did admit "we don't want to be the (Down) team that loses the first All-Ireland.

"I would gladly lose a record to Kerry, or lose an All-Ireland final, if I knew that Down were going to be competing at the top table on a regular basis," he added.

Irish Independent

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