Tuesday 12 December 2017

McCartan delight at saving his backside


James McCartan came in to face the media intent on downplaying his side's achievement. The first question thrown at him was an obvious one. Down's incredible 100 per cent record against Kerry? McCartan, however, chose to take a different angle.

"Everybody's going to say that we take advantage of Kerry teams when they're not at their best," he said. "That story will raise its head. The bottom line is that we beat a Kerry team going for seven All-Ireland finals in a row. I'm not saying that we're world beaters but we got the job done."

McCartan laughed as he revealed how relieved he was to be able to go and meet his father, James senior, himself an All-Ireland winner, with a win safely under the belt.

"We didn't think that history background would have any bearing today. I'm delighted that my father can't kick me up the backside when I get up the road!" he said. "That record against Kerry will be ruined at some stage but I hope it's far away."

A lot of the post-match controversy centred on two disallowed goals, both of which were ruled out for illegal handpassing. Jack O'Connor maintained it was the turning point of the game.

"We weren't going into battle with our full army for starters, which wasn't a help," the Kerry manager said. "Down were coming into the game in a nice position. They had three or four games in the last month and the break didn't suit us. The goal was a critical call. There must have been 20 of those handpasses in the game and to call that?

"I prophesised at the start of the year when that rule was brought in that it would cost a team big time. I think that was a crucial call. I'm not saying it cost us the game but it would have been very interesting because we had fought our way back after a bad start.

"What did ye think?" he asked the media. "Would you not say there were 20 of them in the game? It's fierce disappointing. If you give a referee discretion -- pull this one, don't pull that one -- you have anarchy then. Anyway, I don't want sour grapes here. Down were the more vibrant, energetic team today and deserved their win."

McCartan remained diplomatic about the same incident. "I would like to stand here and say that we responded to the Kerry goal; that would be nice," he said. "Who knows? Obviously we got one disallowed in the second half, maybe it was not as significant because the game was probably going our way at that time."

McCartan says he is always learning in the Down hot seat. "What we have learned is that you don't take anything for granted," he said. "We got very little credit for going to Tullamore and to Breffni Park and beating Longford. The learning curve we got on the road was good for rehabilitation after Tyrone. We do think that we can match the best."

O'Connor, meanwhile, lamented the fact that his depleted team ran out of steam. "You're talking about a current Player of the Year and a former Player of the Year missing. Any team is going to miss them aren't they?" he asked. "Things needed to go right for us but they went haywire at times."

When asked about an Ulster referee officiating in a game with an Ulster team, he replied: "I just made the point on TV -- how an Ulster ref is reffing an Ulster team is beyond my comprehension. Surely there are enough referees that they can get one from the other two provinces, Leinster and Connacht. I'm not criticising Joe McQuillan one way or the other but I'm just saying that, on principle, that shouldn't be happening."

And as for his own future? "Today isn't the day to be talking about decisions. We're just very disappointed. You need to let these things thaw a bit -- it's a bit raw at the moment. Let it thaw a bit and settle. Fellas can make up their minds then."

Sunday Independent

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