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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Paddy Tierney

Down boss James McCartan hoping injuries ease ahead of Meath test

Down were always going to be up against it in their opening two fixtures, but back-to-back defeats to Derry and Galway suggests that James McCartan’s men will have a fight on their hands to avoid relegation.

The Mournemen still have five games to turn things around with three of them at home. Last season, they defeated Laois in a relegation play-off to retain their status in Division Two.

Their next game sees them travel to a Meath team who are also without a point from the first two rounds.

After Saturday night’s 1-12 to 0-9 loss to Galway in Newry, McCartan hopes to welcome a few more players back from injury for the clash against the Royals in Navan on Sunday week.

First-team regulars Daniel Guinness (Carryduff), Corey Quinn (Mayobridge), Gerard Collins (Downpatrick) and Pierce Laverty (Saul) were all missing at the weekend.

Down are also currently without their Kilcoo contingent as they prepare for Saturday's All-Ireland Club SFC final against Kilmacud Crokes.

“We are away to Meath next and they are a big team too, but they are missing a few key players at the minute,” said McCartan.

“We will have (more players back), but they’ll be coming back and they’ll be rusty.

“We seem to be rushing players in. We had guys who only trained this week and they came off the bench (against Galway).

“It isn’t where we want to be. We have to keep chipping away - there is going to be nothing easy in this League.”

He added: “You wouldn’t have picked going to Owenbeg and Galway, who will be looking for silverware this year. You could argue they are a Division One team.

“We scored six points the last day - we got it up to nine so maybe our graph is going up a wee bit!

“It is unforgiving and it is the way football is."

Down gave Galway far too much space in the first half and paid the price with Paul Conroy, Cillian McDaid, Shane Walsh and former Antrim panellist Owen Gallagher catching the eye.

Conroy bagged the game’s only goal after just five minutes and the Tribesmen led 1-7 to 0-2 at the break.

The home side made a brief comeback with a more direct style of play yielding a run of four unanswered points. Yet, Galway had more than enough in hand to run out comfortable 1-12 to 0-9 winners and McCartan admits the damage was done in the first half.

“Look, it was a tough game. Probably the first half is where we lost it,” said McCartan.

“We challenged the boys at half-time and they came out.

“They gave us a bit of a spell, a purple patch after half-time. We were very disappointed with our first half. I felt it was just too easy for them.

“We just didn’t get close enough to Galway. There is no point in standing on the edge of the ‘D’ when there is a gale-force wind there and you can kick the ball over from the 50. You should be pushing out.

“We have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down and we’ve a two-week break until the next match and it becomes all the more important."

Galway manager Pádraic Joyce, meanwhile hailed the exploits of Conroy, who hit 1-2 from play and pulled the strings around the middle third.

“I don’t know what words to use to describe him? He is back training and, since I came in, he has given us full commitment,” said Joyce.

Galway Manager Pádraic Joyce (©INPHO/Ben Brady)

“He’s never taken a week or a month - he has trained fully since I’ve been involved. His leadership tonight (against) Down was unbelievable. He controlled the game at midfield and he knows when to go forward.

“He finished his goal really well. The way he moves the ball - I thought he was outstanding.

“Of course he has the ability and he is great under the high ball. I can’t speak highly enough of him and it is great to have him on our side.”

Galway, who dropped down from Division One last year, started the season as favourites for promotion, but Joyce insists they still have work to do before they can think about a return to the top flight.

“We are down in Division Two and it is our own fault we are in it - we can’t blame anyone else,” added the Galway boss.

“It is one of our targets to get out of Division Two. As I said before, if we can win two of our first three games, you never know where we’ll go.

“We’ve won two from two now and we’ll pull ourselves together next week.

“We’ve a lot of tired bodies out there, boys playing Sigerson Cup and things. Hopefully, we can clear things up and give Offaly a rattle.”

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