GAA Football

Down boss Paddy Tally will wait until end of All-Ireland campaign to talk to Kilcoo players

The Kilcoo players celebrate after their Ulster Club final win over Donegal champions Glenties at Healy Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

DOWN boss Paddy Tally would love to have a greater representation from newly-crowned Ulster champions Kilcoo on his panel, but has no intention of reaching out to the any Magpies players until their All-Ireland campaign is over.

Ryan and Jerome Johnston, Paul Devlin and Ceilum Doherty were involved during Tally’s first year in charge, but there are plenty of others on the Kilcoo team who would make a strong push for places.

Goalkeeper Martin McCourt, Darryl and Eugene Branagan and midfield pair Dylan Ward and Ryan McEvoy are among those to have caught the eye during their run to county and provincial glory.

Tally is well aware of the talent within the Kilcoo ranks. However, with an All-Ireland semi-final against Leinster winners Ballyboden on January 4, the Galbally man insists this is “their time”.

“The players we had last year, Paul and Ryan and Jerome Johnston, they were fantastic. We couldn’t have asked for any more in terms of commitment from those lads.

“Ceilum Doherty was in for the early part of the season and opted out. Aaron Morgan is another lad who had a back injury last season and it is great seeing him back playing football.

“There’s no doubt we would love to see more players playing for Down. They are certainly good enough. I think they would add an awful lot to what we are doing and I think it would give the county squad a real lift.

“But this is their time to be with their club, and it’s almost wrong of us to be discussing Kilcoo players. I am very much of the mind that this is their time to focus and give everything they have in pursuit of an All-Ireland title.

“And when that is over and their club season is over, maybe then we would be interested in doing all we can to bring them in.”

Kilcoo bridged a 31-year gap for Down sides in the Ulster Club with last weekend’s victory over Naomh Conaill, becoming the first to get their hands on the Seamus MacFerran Cup since Burren won the last of their five in 1988.

The Magpies have been knocking on the door for most of the last decade, and Tally hopes their success can serve as an inspiration for players across the county.

He said: “There’s no doubt it’ll inspire a lot of other clubs in Down to see what they can do.

“For the county, I just think it’s fantastic. And anybody that knows Kilcoo people and Kilcoo players, the community and the club, they will understand how hard this team worked to win that Ulster title.

“No team has tried harder, no team has got over such big disappointments and consistently came back year after year. So it’s a great sense of joy, relief, happiness and pride for Kilcoo people at the moment, which is fantastic.”

It remains to be seen therefore how many of the Magpies players join the Mourne County fold for a crunch 2020 campaign, as Down bid to escape Division Three of the National League and a place in the new Tier Two Championship.

There is still a significant overseas contingent too, and Tally doesn’t expect to have them at his disposal for the incoming campaign.

“Shay [Millar] is still in Australia. Gerard McGovern, I think he is in Australia as well but I haven’t had any word.

“But listen, we are always keeping our ears to the ground and we are talking to the boys in the clubs to see where these players are.

“Generally, players are away to do with work. Conor Francis is away to Australia for a year, Ruairi Wells took a job in Canada, so there is two players who were really good players with us and they have moved on. That’s life, that’s what you have to deal with.

“Niall McParland is still working in Qatar, teaching kids out there, but that’s the way it is going. People’s careers are taking them in different directions.

“We have to focus on what we have at home and develop what is there in the current Down squad. If other players became available down the line, we would take a look at them.”

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GAA Football