GAA Football

Down need to get back to Division One: Tally

New Down manager Paddy Tally. Picture by Philip Fitzpatrick..

DOWN must “stop the slide” and find their way back to Division One if they are to be competitive in the longer term, believes new manager Paddy Tally.

In an exclusive interview with The Irish News, the new Mourne boss also says that whatever style of play Down adopt under him will be the one that best suits the players at his disposal.

Tally, who informed Galway boss Kevin Walsh last Tuesday that he was stepping down as their coach after one season, will begin his tenure in Down from Division Three after they suffered two relegations in three years under Eamonn Burns, who also took them a rare Ulster final last summer.

Having helped Tyrone to All-Ireland success in 2003 and coached Down to an All-Ireland final seven years later under James McCartan, Tally helped propel Galway into national contenders this year off the back of a strong showing in the league.

“At the start of this year, my ambition working with Galway was to help get them to the Super 8s. I knew that would’ve been a good start for that squad, and that’s what they achieved.

“You’d love to see in two or three years’ time that Down will be back playing in Division One of the league.

“If you want to be really competitive at this level, you have to be playing in Division One, against the best teams week in, week out.

“That’s where you’ll learn the most. It’s tough, it’s hard and you’ll have days when things don’t go well, but if you want to be really competitive nationally you have to be playing in Division One.

“Down have a lot of work to do before that. They have to stop the slide and get back into Division Two, and be competitive in the Ulster championship.”

The year of sometimes eight-hour round trips to Galway had weighed on him and when the opportunity to take his first step into inter-county management with a county “I have a real affinity with” presented itself, Tally couldn’t say no.

Having first started coaching as a 20-year-old with his native club Galbally, he guided St Mary’s to a famous Sigerson Cup success as manager in 2017, and is confident that he can make the transition from number two to number one at the top level.

“I’ve been doing this with the St Mary’s squad for the last few years, taking a step back as regards the coaching, and Stephen [Beattie] and Gavin [McGilly] are coming in with me [to Down, along with Benny Coulter].

“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of doing that. The Sigerson win was great. The secret to that, obviously we had really good players, but also having a really good team around you that you could take a step back.

“You have to trust the people to do the job. That, to me, was crucial. You can’t do it all, it’s impossible. To go in at this level and think you can do the coaching, do the training, do the management, it’s just not possible. You spread yourself too thin.

“The key is to have good people around you. I’m delighted to have the lads coming in, and Benny. It’s great to have people around you that you can trust to get on with it. They’re all very experienced in coaching and also in management, all three lads.

“It means I can take a wee step back and spend more time individually with players. You’re not only managing a football team, it’s a backroom team, a medical team, all of that.

“That’s one of the challenges I’m really looking forward to. I think it’s only now that I’ve gained enough experience in inter-county football to take on this role.”

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