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Published: 22:12 | 28/1/16

Coulter return 'divisive'

Down forward Mark Poland admits the return of Benny Coulter to the panel has divided opinion in the county.

2010 All-Star Coulter, 33, returns to the Mournemen squad after taking a sabbatical last season, but Poland says many Down supporters believe that new manager Eamonn Burns should try to bring through new blood instead.

However, Poland insists that Coulter will be a positive influence on the younger players in the Down dressing-room ahead of this season's National Football League Division One campaign.

"In Down, there’s a lot of people saying it is the wrong thing to do," Poland told the Times of Ireland.

"But if I was a young fella, maybe 20 years of age, coming into the changing room and seeing Benny Coulter sitting across from me, I would be happy.

"What he has done on the pitch is huge but also his general experience and leadership qualities, it can only be good for any young lad for Benny to pass on any wee things that he has, that might make them better players."

Poland also hopes that Marty Clarke will return to the Down panel this season.

Clarke has not played inter-county football since 2011, and returned home from Australia over a year ago after being diagnosed with Addison's Disease, following a spell with AFL side Collingwood.

The 28-year-old has yet to decide on his future plans, but Poland hopes the half-back will return to the Down panel soon.

"You hear all the rumours," Poland continued.

"I'm from the same area as him and it seems to be a general topic of discussion around Down. You hear rumours he is coming back and that he isn't.

"I haven't spoken to him in a while but if I thought it was worth getting on to him, I would pick up the phone and give him a call.

"If I was a manager, I know I would be on to him.

Last year's Division 2 champions Down kick off their Division One campaign on Saturday in an all-Ulster league clash with Donegal.

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