There will be pain along the way for Down says new boss Paddy Tally
Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section A: Down 0-10 Donegal 1-17
DOWN boss Paddy Tally is keen to get his more established players back to “start moulding a team” ahead of the Mournemen’s NFL Division Three opener with Laois in 19 days’ time.
Down were swept aside by a more experienced and efficient Donegal side who are now odds-on to make the Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals following their 10-point win in Newry yesterday.
For the second game running, Tally fielded a host of rookies and it was no surprise they have suffered back-to-back defeats to Cavan and Donegal, and will round off their McKenna Cup campaign against Queen’s in Newry on Wednesday night.
“Our priority is to get ready for the start of the League,” said Down’s new manager.
“This is part of it. It was tough out there today. It’s going to be tough on the players because a lot of these young lads probably got exposed a bit. Unless you put them in, how are you going to know? So it’s been a valuable lesson that way.
“I’ve been given the responsibility to rebuild the Down team and you’re going to have some bad days when you do that. In this McKenna Cup situation you have to expose young players to it.
“Last week [against Cavan] we started with 13 players who weren’t involved in Championship last year and today another 13 with two or three making their debuts. That’s part of the process.”
Down trailed 0-9 to 0-3 at the break and were behind by 10 points at the end of yesterday’s one-sided encounter.
Caolan Mooney, Kevin McKernan, Connaire Harrison, Darren O’Hagan and Donal O’Hare are just some of the big names missing from Down’s McKenna Cup roster.
“Donegal are a fair bit ahead of us and they are missing a fair few of their main players too, so there’s a lot of development to do. But in terms of footballers, there are a lot of them in Down.
“We won’t know until we get them all, and that’s being dead honest.
“It’s getting our more experienced players back and starting to mould a team. That’s the first thing.”
Tally added: “We have a number of players who are just a week or two off and I wasn’t going to put them in too early. I can’t afford a player to be put back further.
“But I’d like to think we should have at least seven or eight changes for the start of the League.”
The new three handpass rule cost Down an excellent first half goal that may have raised their performances levels.
Tally described the new handpass rule as “confusing” that “makes no sense” – while Donegal boss Declan Bonner was more damning.
“To me, I can’t understand how people can sit around Croke Park and come up with stuff like that. Absolutely crazy stuff,” Bonner said.
“I presume any of the coaches around the place are doing very little work on this handpass rule because they can’t see it being used.”
With midfielder Martin McElhinney catching the eye with four points from play yesterday, Bonner added: “It was the first Sunday in January and there was plenty to like about it but there is plenty of work to be done.”