AFTER just eight months in the job, James McCartan’s second spell as Down Senior football manager is over. McCartan announced his decision to step down during a County Board meeting on Monday evening after a deeply disappointing League and Championship campaign. Late last November, he stepped up to the plate to answer a late call and will leave knowing there was little more he could have done. With the news only being digested around the county, the early names being bandied about are nothing more than mere speculation. Malachy O’Rourke, Conor Laverty, Enda McGinley, Steven Poacher and Seamus McEneaney are among those being whispered.
It is imperative that Down fill the vacant position in a much more time efficient manner than last time round. Ideally the new manager should be in place ahead of the commencement of the Club Championship in the second half of August. But if Down are to step forward once more, the real change must come from within the playing squad.
McCartan inherited a difficult situation in November as he was beginning a pre-season anywhere from four to eight weeks behind most other counties. Down started slowly in the League, though their first two defeats came against teams who would be beaten All Ireland semifinalists and finalists respectively in Derry and Galway. League form failed to pick up, even after a heartening draw in Meath. In both the Championship and Tailteann Cup, Down suffered heavy defeats and there was the infamous ‘Beer-gate’ incident which came in the midst of a raft of players leaving the panel for a variety of reasons.
Ultimately it was a season without victory and that is never easy for anyone involved. In his first stint McCartan had a year to remember, his second spell was one to forget. County Board statement The County Board statement announcing James’ departure read as follows: “James McCartan has informed Down GAA of his decision to step down as manager of the county senior football team. “James was first appointed to the position in September 2009, leading Down to an All-Ireland football final appearance in his first season. “The county team also secured promotion to Division One in 2010 and an Ulster final appearance in 2012 during his tenure. “In November 2021, he was once again appointed to the position, but after considerable thought during the past few weeks, he has decided to now step aside from the role. “Down GAA wish to place on record our gratitude to James, Aidan O’Rourke, Ronan McMahon and the entire coaching and backroom team for their work during the 2022 season. “James McCartan will always be regarded as an iconic figure of Down football. He has given outstanding service to his county as a player and manager, and we wish him well. “Cumann Lúthchleas Gael an Dúin will now commence the process to appoint a new manager.”