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  Monday, 10 June, 2002, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Dream team for Down?

All Ireland winning captains Paddy O'Rourke and DJ Kane are the 'dream team' to take over the Down football team after the resignation of Peter McGrath.

O'Rourke has experience at club level with Burren and Castleblayney, while Kane has been player-manager at Newry Shamrocks for a few seasons.

Both men are well-respected throughout the county for lifting the Sam Maguire in 1991 and 1994 and for their inspirational leadership on the pitch.

Ross Carr is another contender with similar qualities to O'Rourke and Kane, and has just completed his first year with the minor team.


Peter McGrath took the Down job when no-one else wanted it
Jerome Quinn

Any two from three would be a popular choice for the county board, which will meet at the end of this month.

The very prospect of the 'dream team' will excite all Down fans, but it would be disrespectful to move on without acknowledging the 13-year management reign of Peter McGrath.

The wee man from Rostrevor took the job when no-one else wanted it, back in September 1989.

A few months previous, a Down team managed by Jackie McManus had lost by five points to Tyrone in an Ulster semi-final.

McGrath set out to restore pride in the Down jersey and to win an Ulster title within three years.

Achieving that objective in just two years proved to be the manager's personal highlight of his entire reign.

Peter McGrath had great forwards like Mickey Linden at his disposal in the early 1990s
Mickey Linden: Footballing artist

"The All-Irelands were great and the '94 Celtic Park game was the greatest game, but you have to remember that in 1991 Down had gone 10 years without an Ulster title," said Pete.

"It was the most important and satisfying win for me".

McGrath also paid tribute to the players who brought glory to their county.

"We had an incredible mix of talent in those golden years.

"There was the vision of Greg Blaney, the artistry of Mickey Linden, the strength of Peter Withnell, Ross Carr the workhorse, the reliability of Paul Higgins and Gary Mason, and the leadership of Paddy and DJ.

"All these qualities and personalities came together in spectacular fashion.

"In particular, I feel that the strength of all great teams lie in the forwards, and we had great forwards," added McGrath.

Steady Decline

Since '94, McGrath struggled to maintain high standards.

Apart from reaching and losing two Ulster Finals in 1996 and '99, Down won only one other Championship match in the period 1995-2002.

That includes the All Ireland Qualifiers and it is a revealing statistic of a county in steady decline.

McGrath feels that the premature loss of quality players such as Barry Breen, Gary Mason, Aidan Farrell and John Kelly was a major factor.

"Barry's last game was in 1995 when he was only 28, and some of the others should still be playing," he added.


Now I'm a bit tired and the edge has gone
Peter McGrath

After losing to Antrim in 2000, McGrath tried to rebuild with the new All Ireland minor champions, but no avail.

"The progress I anticipated just didn't happen.

"Now I'm a bit tired and the edge has gone, so I have to be honest and take a complete break".

We may never see the likes of 'Wee Pete' again, as managers seldom last beyond three years in the modern era, so thanks for the memories.

You have left the county team where you found them, and who's to say you won't be back in three years' time?

Email me at: jerome.quinn@bbc.co.uk

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