The return of James McCartan as manager of Down settles a long-running saga for the county with a popular and highly-regarded appointment. He and long-time associate Aidan O’Rourke will create optimism in the county that progress can be achieved.
McCartan is twice an All-Ireland senior medallist, 1991 and ‘94, as well as a minor winner in 1987. In his previous five years, up to 2014, as county manager he led Down to the 2010 All-Ireland final, which was lost narrowly to Cork.
O’Rourke was involved with him in the winning of the Sigerson Cup by Queens, Belfast but in one of those quirks of fate, had joined his former All-Ireland winning Armagh captain Kieran McGeeney as a selector in Kildare by 2010 and ended up facing McCartan’s Down in that year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
McCartan’s predecessor as Down manager Paddy Tally, who was also involved in the 2010 management, took the county back to Division Two of the league last year and kept them there this season but they exited the championship disappointingly against Donegal.
The last number of weeks had seen intense speculation that under-20 manager Conor Laverty, potentially with the involvement of Donegal All-Ireland winning manager Jim McGuinness, would take the position but it led nowhere.
Down county chair John Devaney said that he very pleased with the appointment.
“James was here for four or five years and there would be huge regard for him and his strong pedigree. The match of him and Aidan O’Rourke is quite a natural one and they’ve worked well together in the past - winning the Sigerson in 2007.”
When McCartan took the position for the first time 11 seasons ago, Down elder Seán O’Neill - a three times All-Ireland winner in the 1960s, who played with McCartan’s father, the late James senior who died last August - said of him: “James always makes teams better”.
Devaney concurs. “He will bring a lot to it. He’s very committed and has a great work ethic.”
The new manager will give a remote media briefing on Friday.