GAA Football

Paddy Tally lauds Down's resilient spirit ahead of Westmeath clash

Down's Conor Francis has made a strong impression on new boss Paddy Tally

MANAGER Paddy Tally is hoping Down’s refusal to lie down against Sligo last weekend will again be in evidence when they host Westmeath on Saturday night in their third NFL Division Three outing.

The Mournemen got back to winning ways in Collooney after losing their first NFL tie of the year to Laois.

Tally’s men produced a meek second-half display against Laois – but they kept driving right to the end against Sligo to eventually prevail, thanks to a last-gasp goal from Caolan Mooney.

They trailed 1-2 to no score after six minutes and were still behind by two at the break. They edged ahead after 55 minutes but found themselves trailing by a point entering stoppage-time.

While there were plenty of unforced errors against the Yeats men, Down's resilience was the most glowing aspect in pinching their first win against inter-county opposition this year.

“To me, it’s about not wanting to get beaten, and I like that in a team, a team that refuses to lie down because that’s more important than anything else,” said Tally.

“Having that resilience and to keep coming back, I thought they showed that even though they weren’t playing particularly well. They refused to lie down. And that was so, so positive.”

Down’s only win in 2019 prior to Sligo was over Queen’s in the last group game of last month’s Dr McKenna Cup.

“Even, psychologically, for these players and building that team spirit and to go into a battle and dragging yourself out by your boots and getting over the line, you can’t pay for that,” said Tally.

The former St Mary’s coach has road tested 40 players from the start of the year, with Stephen Fegan (Burren), Conor Francis (Bredagh), Liam Devlin (Clann na Banna), Pat Havern (Saval) and Daniel McCarthy (Saval) all getting generous game-time against Sligo.

“These lads are still learning,” insisted Tally.

“Daniel McCarthy made his debut against Sligo and he really had a good second half. Conor Francis started, that’s Stephen Fegan’s second game and you can see him getting better.

“A player with a half dozen matches under their belt and they’ll look like a different player.

“We’re trying to blood eight or nine new players and Division Three is not a bad place to start but they are going to get all the physical contact they need.

“But then it becomes more ruthless in Division Two and Division One and that’s what we aspire to do. We want to get back up there and play at the highest level.”

“But this is such a difficult league. You seen over last weekend teams balancing back up again. There’s going to be massive pressure to get something on Saturday night against Westmeath because if you lose, you’re back to square one again. Certainly you’d like for these boys to put themselves in the frame for promotion but it’s too early to say.”

Tally also reserved special praise for vice-captain Caolan Mooney following his second-half 1-2 in Sligo last Sunday.

“I thought Caolan was superb. That’s his first full game in a long time. We got him 25 minutes against Laois and I was thinking 50 minutes against Sligo but the way the game went we couldn’t take him out of the game.

“He was playing so well and he was enjoying himself out there. I’m delighted for him because he’s worked extremely hard to get back from a bad injury [hernia operation].”

Down may have been caught cold by a couple of attacking ‘marks’ that saw Sligo nab 1-1 in the opening exchanges but they soon settled.

Tally is a fan of the new rule but didn’t think it was necessary for referee Padraig Hughes to count the seconds for a player to hit a resultant ‘mark’.

“Sligo got a few good balls in and we got caught one on one and [Sligo full-forward] Pat Hughes was very good.

“There was one time he caught a ball but it was from a free and it wasn’t allowed. That happened us against Laois as well, so there is still a wee bit of confusion.

“It’s going to take a bit of time but I think it’s a good rule, as it rewards a hard-working forward for winning ball.

“In the Sligo game, the referee started counting out the seconds before the player kicked the ball. I thought that was unnecessary because it sort of put the player off and he felt under pressure then. ‘You’ve 15 seconds’ that’s all you have to say to a player. So the player panics and hits it after five seconds.

“Players were also trying to hit the perfect pass and it sometimes flew over players’ heads instead of putting the ball in like you normally would. We’re trying to coach boys, if you see somebody open, hit it into them and try and win the ‘mark’.”

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