Tipperary is win or bust for Down: Paddy Tally
MANAGER Paddy Tally insists Down “have to win” Sunday’s All-Ireland Qualifier Round One clash against Tipperary in order to have something to show for their efforts in 2019.
The Mournemen suffered last-day agony in their NFL Division Three campaign, missing promotion on scoring difference, while they arguably exited the Ulster Championship last month with the same amount of positives as their conquerors Armagh.
But Tally is reluctant to buy into Down’s hard-luck stories and believes the success or otherwise of their entire season will be greatly determined by the outcome of the Tipperary game.
“I do think this is a game that for ourselves we have to win,” said Tally.
“Surely, there has been progress made this year, there’s been development this year but this is a game that Down have to win. If we win the game on Sunday the door opens to possibilities going forward.
“If we don’t win, it’s a long way back – a long wait ‘til we start back.
“I think every player involved in the set-up is aware of that. They understand the importance of this game because you can progress and progress so far but you have to have something to show for it.
“If we put a performance in and get a result it’ll be a really good step forward. I think it's really important for this team at this time.”
Down were desperately unlucky to lose to neighbours Armagh on May 19 after an epic extra-time clash in Pairc Esler, whereas Tipperary’s provincial narrative was slightly less comforting to manager Liam Kearns.
Division Four outfit Limerick sprung the shock of the season so far by beating them at Semple Stadium by a whopping 10 points.
Kearns, appointed Tipp manager in November 2015, guided the county's footballers to the All-Ireland semi-finals in his first season in charge with nine survivors of that team suffering humiliation to Limerick in mid-May.
There is high mileage in Tipp’s experienced core but they still possess a dangerous physical and aerial threat – deemed Down’s Achilles heel.
“Armagh were a physical team and I thought Down acquitted themselves well in that part of the game because we competed physically with Armagh,” Tally noted.
“All through the League we came up against big, physical teams. It’s only one aspect of the game; there are so many other parts to it and I’d like to think if Down can perform to their best, playing the type of game they play that might take away that advantage Tipperary have.
“Tipp are all six foot-plus and it does gave them an aerial threat inside and around the middle of the field for kick-outs, so we know it’s going to be a big part of their game. We just have to match them as well as we possibly can and hope that other parts of our game will be good enough to give them trouble.”
Key player Caolan Mooney lost his appeal to have his first-half red card against Armagh overturned - but Tally is expected to welcome back fellow midfielder Johnny Flynn and seasoned defender Brendan McArdle is back training which would be a welcome addition to the Down full-back line.
Tally added: “Over the course of the Armagh game I think there were 12 lads that played their first Championship game so that’s great and that’s done. In one way it’s out of the way for those players.
“They’ve had their taste of it and the experience of playing in that type of atmosphere, a really tight game that went down to the wire, it will really stand to them going forward. It does give you more options going forward and there are another couple of other players who are pushing really hard that haven’t been able to get in yet through injuries or just didn’t make the squad the last time.”
While it’s deflating to lose any provincial opener, Down still showed signs of promise – with Tally citing the resilient spirit of the squad throughout their League campaign.
“There were a lot of our League games that went to the wire, where they stuck at it. I think there were six points we got in over-time – so there is something in that, that mentality, that they want to keep going and they don’t want to get beaten. I think that’s a great trait to have.
"The Armagh game was on a knife-edge right to the end and there were some big calls too. We understand that. But you can only dwell on that for so long. You have to think of how we can improve, how can we get better.
“We are facing a team with a lot of really, really good players who have been around for a few years – this is a fairly experienced Tipperary team…they’ve been to the latter end of the All-Ireland Championship… So it’s going to be a really big challenge at this moment in time and I think this is a challenge the Down players need coming off the back of the Armagh defeat.
“You could say: ‘It would be nice to get an easy draw’, but that causes all sorts of problems as well. Because there were positives against Armagh there might be that thought: ‘We gave a big performance against Armagh – we’ll be grand.’
“Football doesn’t work like that. Every day you have to play well and I think the onus is on this team to obviously reflect on the Armagh game in the Ulster Championship and then build on it.”