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Belfast Live
Belfast Live
Paddy Tierney

Down have the potential to flourish in 2023 says selector Declan Morgan

Last season was one to forget for Down as the county slipped into Division Three and ended the year with back-to-back Championship defeats to Monaghan and Cavan.

The Tailteann Cup defeat to the Breffnimen spelled the end of a turbulent year in charge for Mourne legend James McCartan with Kilcoo’s Conor Laverty taking the reins for 2023.

His management team includes Declan Morgan and Marty Clarke, who worked with Laverty with the Down U20s as well as Mickey Donnelly, Jonny Davis and John Devine.

Read more: Big GAA Quiz of 2022 - test your knowledge with these 10 questions

Laverty’s first competitive game in charge of Down will be next Wednesday night’s Dr McKenna Cup opener against Monaghan in Castleblayney.

If the new management team can get everyone pulling in the one direction, Morgan believes the potential exists for Down to recover from a listless 2022 campaign.

“Myself and Conor and Marty have worked with the U20s for a while together. We have a good relationship and a good dynamic going there.” said Morgan.

“But we are all Down men and have all been involved in football for a long time and we can see that there is potential in Down.

“It’s just a matter of getting ourselves organised properly and getting a bit of drive on. I am not saying that anybody else that has been involved in Down management over the years, they were the exact same as us. But we feel it is a good time for us to get into this job.

“We have a lot of good players coming through from the U20 panel the last few years. We have a lot of lads on the panel this year who maybe haven’t been on the panel in the past.

“We are just trying to get the best players in Down committed to playing for Down. We think we have a panel that we are very happy with.

“We are under no illusions that we are starting from a far lower base. But we see the potential in this squad, we see the potential in this county. The previous All-Ireland champions are in this county for a start.”

Down’s prospects last season were undermined by a series of fallouts and high-profile departures from the squad at various stages of the campaign.

However, speaking at the recent Dr McKenna Cup launch, Morgan was keen to draw a line under the events of 2022.

“Whatever happened last year, we weren’t involved, we were taking U20s and working away with those boys,” added Morgan.

Former Down captain Caolan Mooney won't be available for the Mournemen in 2023 after suffering a cruicate knee injury while playing for Downpatrick (©INPHO/John McVitty)

“Our immediate goal at the minute is to pull a squad together, and the second goal is to establish a good standard and culture among that squad; a new squad in a new era.

“The last few weeks back training, we’ve got a real good buy-in from the lads, we’re really happy with the commitment they’re showing and the enthusiasm they’re bringing to training.

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of our boys. Going to training at the minute is an absolute joy."

Burren’s Kevin McKernan and Clonduff’s Darren O’Hagan have both retired from inter-county duty while Caolan Mooney won’t feature for Down in 2023 after suffering a cruciate knee injury while playing for Downpatrick.

The same injury is likely to keep Carryduff attacker James Guinness sidelined for most of next season as well while Warrenpoint’s Donagh McAleenan is among the new additions to the squad which will be finalised in the coming weeks.

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