James McCartan reaps reward for resisting temptation to tinker

Down manager happy with how his team turned performance around in second half

James McCartan: “We are just going to have to try and take the second half performance and superimpose it for a 70-minute game.” Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO/Presseye/

James McCartan: “We are just going to have to try and take the second half performance and superimpose it for a 70-minute game.” Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO/Presseye/

 

James McCartan was bashful enough to turn down the invitation to compare the game to the stone-cold classic of 1994 in this same ground but he conceded that it had been entertaining. Maybe not so much in the first half when his defence was conceding almost every time Eoin Bradley touched the ball but in a general sense at least.

As Derry ran up the score, the temptation was there for him to whip off one or two members of his full-back line but he resisted. His reward was a second half where Down only conceded five points.

“It entered our head. It was as much about the players who needed to come back and fill spaces and close doors, they were getting caught up the field and they weren’t doing their job. We got that corrected at half-time to give ourselves a chance.

The gate
“But I’ve said it many times, if Down teams don’t take their ‘A’ game, they are going to be beaten out the gate. In the first half we didn’t have the ‘A’ game there. We are just going to have to try and take the second half performance and superimpose it for a 70-minute game.”

There will be many more downcast losing managers at the ends of games this year than Brian McIver. His team is relatively young and broadly untested and yet they had the whip hand here for significant periods. The knowledge that they will learn as they go left McIver sanguine enough afterwards.

“Our defence right across the board wasn’t good enough,” he said.

“When you give two bad goals like that away, it’s just not good enough. This is a young side and the only way to learn is what they were doing there today. That Down side were in an All-Ireland final three years ago, they were in an Ulster final last year. They know how to take knocks and we have to learn about doing the same.

“We knew that we were going to have to be really, really good to play against them. But if you look at that game, we weren’t outplayed. For a large part of it I thought we were the better side. We can’t buy the level of experience that Down have been getting over the past few years.

“The only thing we can do is to play at that level as often as possible and that’s what we’re hopefully in a position to do now.”