Search intensifies

Search intensifies

11 July 2018

DOWNPATRICK’S Conor Deegan is remaining tight-lipped about the vacant Down manager’s job.

A member of the All-Ireland winning Down sides of 1991 and ’94, Deegan is keeping his own counsel as the search for a new county manager intensifies.

“I have nothing really to say on the matter at this stage,” he said last night. “I was reappointed county U-20 manager last Tuesday night and I am more than happy with that role.”

Deegan has had vast experience in the club scene from his time in Dublin and was also in charge at his native Downpatrick.

He took the Down U-20s to an Ulster semi-final last month where they threw away a 10-point lead to eventual championship winners Derry.

Ever since Eamon Burns stepped down from the post last Tuesday night after three years in charge, speculation has been rife as to who the new boss will be.

It is believed that the County Board have set up a five-man committee to find a replacement with a host of names being bandied about.

Initial theories suggested that the board were going back to the future for a replacement and about to put former double All-Ireland winning boss Peter McGrath back in the hot seat.

That speculation followed McGrath’s decision to step down as Louth manager just 24 after Burns announced his resignation. However, McGrath moved quickly to dismiss suggestions that his decision to step down was prompted by Burns’ decision.

McGrath, who led Down to All-Ireland glory in 1991 and 1994, insists he had made his mind up to quit Louth a fortnight ago and that his decision was in no way linked to developments in his native county.

“I’ll put one thing to bed — my decision in my mind precedes Eamon’s decision to step down from Down by a number of weeks,” he said.

“Eamon resigned on Tuesday and I know if the decision of mine comes out now, people will say he’s left Louth to come to Down, but that is not the rationale at all.

“If Eamon hadn’t gone, my decision was made in my mind a couple of weeks ago. People can put two and two together, but what they’ll be getting is five, not four. The Down thing is a completely separate issue.”

Gearoid Adams, who was part of Burns’ back room staff this year, is another candidate for the post and he believes that his former boss got no luck in either the National League or Ulster Championship.

Down were relegated from Division 2 of the Allianz League before being knocked out of the championship by Cavan after losing heavily to Donegal in the Ulster SFC semi-final.

“I think Eamon was very unlucky,” Adams said. “I think there were games we were in control of and we probably didn’t finish some teams off.

“The Cavan game summed everything up. We were sitting very comfortable and in complete control and 30 seconds later there were black cards and red cards and men coming off with injury - and it wasn’t your number 25 or 26, it was our main players.”

Other names being touted for the position include former manager James McCartan, who led the county to an All-Ireland final back in 2010, and Paddy Tally, who was part of McCartan’s back room team.

Ballyholland manager Stephen Poacher is another who could well in the running.

There is no doubt that he is an innovative coach who has worked wonders with Carlow and Ballyholland.

There have been calls for the County Board to go outside the county for a manager and they could do worse than sound out former Armagh legend Tony McEntee.

An All-Ireland winner with Armagh and Crossmaglen, McEntee is part of the Mayo set-up and following their recent demise in Connacht, he may well be seeking pastures new.