Tuesday 19 November 2019

Coulter happy to cast a long shadow over Lilywhites

Former Down star reveals Kildare fans have never let him forget 'goal that shouldn't have been' in 2010 semi-final

Brendan Coulter, Down
Brendan Coulter, Down

Liam Kelly

BENNY Coulter scored 18 championship goals for Down during his career - but Kildare fans reckon the true tally should be only 17.

The will o'the wisp forward fisted the ball into the Kildare net early in the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final, a score that proved crucial in a tightly-contested and very exciting match.

To this day, the Lilywhite followers and the players who performed under Kieran McGeeney's management on that fateful date, August 29, 2010, feel a sense of grievance.

Where was he positioned as the ball soared in towards the Kildare goal? Clearly, the Down man was inside the small parallelogram when he scored.

Inexplicably, referee Pat McEnaney and his officials did not catch the encroachment and the goal stood.

At the end of a match which Down squeaked through by 1-16 to 1-14, that was a costly error.

Speaking this week about the memories of that occasion, Coulter reflected on the amazing level of acceptance he has received from the Kildare followers.

At the time, all he was doing was his job in getting into position to have a strike at goal.

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He accepted afterwards that it was a 'square ball', but it wasn't up to him to allow or disallow the 'score.'

Over the last four years Coulter has not been allowed forget 'that goal' by Kildare folk, but it has never descended into abuse or negativity.

"I still get a wee bit of slagging now and then from Kildare supporters when I meet them along the way," he says. "They always mention the goal - well, 'the goal that shouldn't have been'.

"It's always in good spirits and great fun in nature."

No doubt the Mayobridge clubman's name will be mentioned once or twice or, more likely, a hundred times as Kildare fans gather at Newbridge on Sunday for the visit of Down to open the new Allianz League Division 2 campaign for both counties.

Unfortunately for Down and possibly fortunately for Kildare, Coulter won't be donning the famous red and black of his native county as he quit inter-county football last November.

He made his championship debut in 2000, coming on as sub in Down's defeat to Antrim, and went on to become a key figure for the Mourne men.

His big regret was finishing without an Ulster title or an All-Ireland win, as Cork edged Down to the Sam Maguire Cup in the 2010 final.

Currently a coach within the Down area, Coulter is also promoting his own business, BCG Gloves, a GAA glove product that is proving popular with clubs in the North.

"I'm selling them all over Down and in Armagh clubs, and to a few Fermanagh clubs. It's going very well," he says.

"I just knew there was a spot in the market for Gaelic gloves. I worked hard for six months to get them right. There's a lot of teams getting the gloves. It's fantastic."

Active

He is also enjoying pre-season training with his club for the first time in 15 seasons and intends to stay active with Mayobridge for as long as possible.

Coulter is keeping a keen eye on Down's prospects under new manager Jim McCorry, who succeeded James McCartan, and sees Sunday's match against Kildare as pivotal to a good Division 2 challenge.

"I think they're in good shape. I've watched two McKenna Cup matches against Monaghan and against Jordanstown, and I was very impressed with the performance," he says.

"They looked very assured and very comfortable at the back. I think they're in for a good League campaign.

"Possibly they've a very good chance of getting promotion. They probably have to get a result on Sunday, you'd imagine, if they're to top the table, but I wouldn't be surprised if they got promotion from this division."

There was a degree of irony in Coulter's final Championship match ending in defeat to Kildare last July in a qualifier match in Newry.

Kildare won that game by 1-18 to 0-11, and Coulter's three points were his last scores in top-level football.

"In my time, we had some good days against Kildare and some bad days. Last year we lost in the .championship to them, and that hurt," he recalls.

"In 2010 in the League we had a good win as well as in the All-Ireland semi-final.

"Probably all in all, it's been 50-50 over the last ten years. Kildare were always very physical, especially in the last six or seven years since Kieran McGeeney took over.

"They were very strong and physical and had John Doyle as their main scoring threat. They were a team you couldn't take lightly."

Kildare got a tough game with Dublin last Sunday in the O'Byrne Cup final, which went into extra-time before the Dubs finally eclipsed the home side.

Does Coulter consider that a help or a hindrance to Down's prospects of a successful raid on the Newbridge stronghold of the Lilywhites?

"It's a hard one to gauge in that respect. The Kildare players would have gone in training on Tuesday night and they would have been doing mainly a recovery session," he says.

"I wouldn't expect them to be doing too much this week. It might have been a wee bit of hindrance to have to go to extra-time, but speaking to people about it who were there, they were saying there was a great intensity to the match at Newbridge.

"They said the crowd was amazing, and it was a great occasion, a packed house and a real good game. Kildare will be optimistic they can follow that and get a good result."

McCorry had a relatively restricted squad for the McKenna Cup due to a combination of injuries and the usual commitments of some players with the university teams, but now the serious action begins, Coulter feels Down have the personnel to do well in the League.

"The team is basically the players that played in last year's National League, with one or two new boys, so I'm hopeful," says Coulter.

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