Down will prove at tough nut to crack in Ulster SFC opener with Donegal insists Tally

Down manager Paddy Tally with Barry O'Hagan following the Mournemen's win over Laois in the Allianz Football League Division Two relegation play-off at Pairc Esler Picture: Hugh Russell.
Andy Watters

DONEGAL are overwhelming favourites to beat Down in this year’s Championship opener but manager Paddy Tally warns that Down will be a tougher nut to crack that most of us expect.

An impressive victory on Saturday night, albeit against a Laois side that lost four out of four in the League, consolidated Down’s status as a Division Two team and added another layer of confidence to the victory in Westmeath which preceded it.

Throw in the fact that Down have home advantage, a proud tradition and really should have been in last year’s Ulster final after leading eventual champions Cavan by 10 points at half-time in their semi-final meeting and you begin to build a case for a possible upset at Pairc Esler.

“There’s football in these players,” says Down manager Paddy Tally.

“Last year’s Championship was so disappointing because we were in a great position against Cavan and we didn’t close the game out but we learned an awful lot from that game.

“The football is here, the players are very willing, there is a great attitude among them, we have had to suffer a few players with injuries this year who weren’t able to play but ultimately the players that are here are really putting their shoulder to the wheel and they really genuinely want to do well for their county.

“They want to do the best for Down football - what more can you ask? And they are good players. So, the key for us is to prepare them as well as possible and let them play and I think you seen that tonight, they were let play and that’s what they are good at.”

Of course vastly-experienced Tally is rooted in reality and insists “we’re not silly”. He knows that Down will need to produce perhaps the performance of their lives to take out a Tir Chonaill outfit rated as possible All-Ireland contenders.

“Donegal are tactically, physically and technically so good,” said Galbally native Tally after the seven-point success against Laois.

“This time last year Donegal were being tipped to be the team to take out Dublin. This is only 12 months later and they are still one of the top teams.

“We do understand that this is going to be a serious battle and we have got to find ourselves another level but now we can go into the game with an air of confidence about ourselves, it is up to us now; we have got to play again.

“I think if we can improve on things and put in a performance like that again it will be a starting step for the championship and one that we are really looking forward to.”

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