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Tribute to Dan McCartan RIP

Monday 4th March 2024

Coiste Chontae an Dúin and the family that is Down GAA are saddened to learn of the death of an icon of Down football, Dan McCartan a man whose Senior Inter County career spanned 18 Seasons and saw him win three Senior All Ireland Medals, three National League Medals, eight Ulster Senior Football Medals, four Railway Cup Medals and an All-Ireland Handball Medal.

Dan McCartan, was about more than the Medals won on the field, he was a man of stature and a leader, a man of vision with a great empathy with the youth of our Association both in Club and in County. Dan transcended the boundary from being a County player to being a County Administrator and all with the aim of making a real difference to the lives of those he would encounter.

Dan came from great GAA stock, his father Brian (Briney, had played for and captained Down in the 1920s and early 1930’s and of course his late brother James was amongst the greatest forwards in the game. Dan was a former pupil of St Colmans College Newry where he would be a member of the first ever Rannafast winning team in 1956 and win McRory Cup medals in 1957 and 1958. It was at St Colmans too where he developed a first love of Handball and won Ulster Senior Handball title in 1957. Dan went then to study dentistry in UCD and having made his senior debut in the Lagan Cup of 1958 and was to feature in the forward line in the Ulster Championship campaign of 1959, where he made a substitute appearance in the Ulster Final of 1959.

By 1960 Dan was now a feature at Centre Half Back and in the League Semi Final victory over Kerry, Dan was said to be “the barrier to every Kerry advance”, it was never spectacular for Dan, it was always sound and reliable. Dan was a physical presence at Centre Half Back on the history making teams of 1960 and 61, his was the rock upon which many a Kerry and Offaly attack floundered as he exuded experience beyond his years.

Dan would captain Down in 1966 to an Ulster Title and typical of the man he shared the presentation with Patsy O’Hagan who was the named Captain for the Season but would miss the Ulster Final though injury. When Leo Murphy would retire after the Ulster Final of 1967, Dan moved to full back and here he would command the Square, as a new generation of Down footballers would come to the fore. Together with Joe Lennon, Paddy Doherty, and Sean Ó Neill he would provide the link from the glory days of 60 and 61, those four men were the bankers for the young men who had come through the Minor team of 1966 in particular. Indeed, it was men like Dan McCartan who led a defence through the infamous battle of Ballinscreen and on to All Ireland glory in 1968.

At half time in 1968 with Down leading by 2-7 to 0-5 Dan was the one cautioning Team Management not to be praising the display, he knew there were another 30 minutes and to play and that this was Kerry after all. Many times, in that second half Dan would clear his lines and show leadership as Down would go on to win a third All Ireland and the men of 60 and 61 had guided the next generation to a famous victory.

Dan would win the last of his eight Ulster Titles when Down beat Derry in Casement Park in 1971, he would play at Full Back then in three further Ulster Finals 1973,74 and

75 without enjoying success, Dan together with Sean O Neill had played in a remarkable tally of 16 Ulster Senior Finals and as they both left Clones that day it was to be their last Championship appearances in the Red and Black.

Retirement was never going to be an easy role for Dan, he had too much to give and in 1977, he would join his brother James as part of a Senior Management Team and in 1978 Down would return as Ulster Champions with a win over old rivals Cavan. In 1979 Dan was part of the Team Management that would secure the first ever All Ireland Under 21 Title with victory over Cork.

Dan was always willing to give of his time and in the mid eighties he served as Minor Team Manager before in 1987 becoming a selector with Peter McGrath as Down would go on to win a second All Ireland Minor Title. Dan now had played and won three Senior All Ireland’s and been a selector with All Ireland Winning teams at Under 21 and Minor, what a great record of service.

In 1991 there was no prouder man than Dan when his son Mark would win an All-Ireland Medal as a member of a Down Panel that would also feature his nephew James, the love of the game and of the Red and Black had passed across the generations.

Danny was elected County Youth Officer in 1986, having been a member of the Youth Board in the years previous, and had represented his County as a delegate at GAA Congress. Dan was a man who believed in our young people, and he was always willing to share his experiences with them, as part of a Minor Management, in what were different and difficult times, Dan always ensured that the player returned home safely from training and matches even if he had to undertake that duty himself.

Dan won two Championship medals with Glenn in 1959 and 1963 and when he returned to play with Tullylish, he was part of a team that reached the Championship Final of 1971. He would then transfer to Carryduff and continue to play for the Club into his fifties, and remarkably in the 1978 season Dan and his old St Colmans teammate PT Treacy would line out alongside a 15-year-old Greg Blaney in a team that spanned the generations.

Dan put his heart and his sole into the Carryduff Club, and he was very proud of the growth of the Club in the past decade which has seen Carryduff develop facilities that reflect a thriving GAA Community in this part of our County.

Dan McCartan was a man who gave of his time freely to Down and to the Clubs that he served Glenn, Tullylish and Carryduff, in his professional career he was a dentist and again he was always there to look after many GAA players who needed emergency treatment after hours and at weekends, all done without a second thought.

We in Down GAA were privileged to have Dan McCartan in our midst, he was a man who spanned the generations and had a great affinity with people of all ages, he was widely respected throughout the game, a man who stood strong and was an outstanding defender of his time.

Dan was one of those men who helped make us the proud people that we are, the present generations of Down Footballers are the inheritors and custodians of the proud tradition handed down to them by the deeds of men like Dan McCartan. His passing has robbed us of one of our greatest sons, a man who loved his football, his handball, his GAA, his Club, his County, and most of all his family, a truly great Gael who we are proud to say was one of our own.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Dan's partner Betty, his son Mark, his daughters in law Joan, Andrea and Sharon, his step sons Gary and Jason, his Sisters Gay, Delia and Eileen, sister-in-law Marie, brothers in law, George, Felix and Seamus and his grandchildren, Jamie, Jorden, Daniel, Sean, Ethan, Ross, Jack, Asla and Adam.

Ar dheis de go raibh a anam.