Ireland head coach Pete McGrath has expressed interest in returning to the Downs following the resignation of James McCartan earlier this week.
After a disastrous season in McCartan’s second term, the Moornemens failed to win a single game and became the first county to be relegated in all four leagues.
This was followed by high-profile violations of discipline and a number of exclusions of players from the county roster.
The two-time All-Ireland winner (1991 and 1994) announced his intention to return to the hot seat at Down – a position he held from 1989 to 2002 – after announcing his availability last year following the resignation of Paddy Talley.
But he fears he won’t be first on the county council’s list, and Conor Laverty is seen as McCartan’s successor.
“There would be absolutely no hesitation if I were offered the position,” McGrath said.
“I think James was unlucky because the county council took too long to select a new manager last year, so he didn’t have enough time to get his job done by 2022.
“For me, I still carry the same passion and enthusiasm that I had last year when I expressed my interest in this job. I would like to come back and give the players a better opportunity to succeed.
“But with the county council calling me, I wouldn’t be too optimistic.”
McGrath has defended his track record in managing the modern game, having previously taken Ferman to the All-Ireland quarter-finals and also managed Louth in the last decade.
“I know managing interdistrict teams is very different from when I ran Down in the 90s, which is why people say I could be out of touch,” he added.
“But I am still active at club level and I have managed two inter-regional teams over the last decade so I know I can still do it and I know how much time and effort it takes to be a manager.
“I’m a very down-to-earth person and I just want the best for Down GAA.”
While McGrath does not have a strained relationship with the Down County Council, he expressed his disappointment with them when a county subcommittee in 2009, when he was manager of the Down Under-21 team, did not hire him for a senior position.
“We won the title in Ulster in 2009 and lost in the All-Ireland final. That same year, a senior position became available and I thought I’d try again, but they gave it to James (McCartan),” he said.
“It was their decision and I agree with that, but if you look at it objectively, I couldn’t understand why I was overlooked given my past experience with Down and the fact that I had just led the U-21 to All Ireland Final.
“It hurt me a lot and I knew that if they didn’t give me a job then I don’t think they would ever give it to me.
“Football downstairs has not evolved since we reached the 2010 All-Ireland Final. We’ve only been to two finals in Ulster and lost both.
“I don’t think the senior manager role is an impossible job, but we are in a bad position at the moment and I think with my experience I could do something there.”
As for Downe’s recent misconduct ahead of the championship when several players were caught drunk during a practice weekend, as well as Kilkoo’s star Eugene Branagan’s scathing criticism of the inter-regional team’s standards, the 69-year-old feels the issue has been overblown by the means mass information.
“The worst thing I feel about player misconduct is that it got into the hands of the media and that’s where the stories grow,” he said.
“If it was kept secret, I don’t think it would be so bad.
“Because Eugene criticizes the team, I think it’s just a guy who is inexperienced in dealing with the press. I think what makes these incidents worse is that it’s easy to find these exaggerated stories when the team is struggling.”
And what would McGrath want to achieve if he got a job at Down?
“We have a glorious history and traditions in Down, but somewhere along the way we almost lost them,” he said.
“He almost disappeared. I know the world has changed since I last ran Down, but the way you instill faith and desire in a team hasn’t changed.
“The way you make people enjoy the game hasn’t changed. The way you create a professional and hardworking environment hasn’t changed either.
“I would like to bring it back to Down and take on the responsibility of trying to make an impact on people’s lives. This would be my main goal.
“Believe it or not, I really still have the desire to come back and do it all. I won’t hold my breath for a phone call. If the county council doesn’t call me, I won’t be surprised, but I’ll be disappointed.”