GAA Football

Armagh minds aren't occupied by Ulster losing streak insists assistant Jim McCorry

Assistant manager Jim McCorry is not bothered by talk of Armagh's poor Ulster run Picture Margaret McLaughlin.

ARMAGH assistant Jim McCorry has dismissed the notion that the Orchard men are extra-motivated to beat Down on Sunday if only to end talk of their four-year losing streak in the Ulster Championship.

Under manager Kieran McGeeney, Armagh have yet to win a provincial clash having suffered early exits to Donegal (2015), Cavan (2016), Down (2017) and Fermanagh (2018), although ‘Geezer’ assisted Paul Grimley in 2014 when they reached the Ulster semi-finals, only to lose to Monaghan after a replay.

McCorry insists the Armagh squad is not consumed by their first-round collapses between 2015 and 2018 as they return to the Marshes for the second time in three seasons.

“It’s there and it’s talked about but it’s talked about more outside of our group than inside it,” said McCorry.

“I know players will answer the question when it’s asked, and players know about it, but it’s not a topic of conversation inside the group.

“Within our whole set-up we haven’t said: ‘We must win this because we haven’t won the previous four.’ That’s not the psyche – the psyche is to go out and win an Ulster Championship match in the year that you’re in it, no matter what happened previously.

“It’s there because everybody else talks about it. You’d be deaf not to hear it or blind not to see it written.

“But it doesn’t make a player play harder because we haven’t won a match in the Ulster Championship over the last four years.”

Armagh still have concerns over Niall Grimley (broken hand) and Andrew Murnin (knee) ahead of the Down clash.

Grimley has had his cast removed while Murnin has completed his long rehab.

Full-forward Murnin is key to Armagh’s attack. In their All-Ireland Round Four Qualifier defeat to Roscommon last summer the St Paul’s attacker showed some sublime moments of skill.

“He’s the type of player that can turn a game in an instant – even if it’s for five minutes. We have to see how he is. We might be targeting the game after this one for him.”

Corner-back Patrick Burns, who improved with each passing game last summer, didn’t feature in Armagh’s Division Two campaign but the highly-rated Forkhill clubman could be in line for a recall.

Another criticism levelled at this current Armagh team is their perceived inability to break down defensive-minded teams.

Under new boss Paddy Tally, Down have become defensively more solid, averaging just 14 points per game in Division Three this season, and missed out on promotion on the last day after scoring just 1-6 in their narrow defeat to Louth.

The defensive tag appears to be following Tally around, particularly after his stint in Galway where they were labelled the same.

“People are talking about Down being more defensive now because Paddy Tally has come in… I know a lot of their scores came on the counter-attack.

“People talk about the Fermanaghs and Carlows and Downs – but every team has a defensive structure. There were games last year when I was watching Dublin playing and they had 15 men in their own half of the field.

McCorry, who was manager of Down in 2015 before being forced out of the post by Down officialdom after one season, added: “I personally think Paddy Tally has been unfairly criticised by some pundits for being too defensive – the same applies to Rory Gallagher in Fermanagh and Steven Poacher in Carlow. To be honest they are working on the same defensive shape as many other counties. I don’t see a massive difference.

“Ourselves and Roscommon played a very open game last year – so we were criticised for not having a ‘defensive structure’ but you’d be criticised for having a ‘defensive structure’ in place.

“I think there’s a lot of lazy punditry. In the early days of the ‘blanket defence’ it was a case of a lot of players were back but as time passed players were given more specific roles, in terms of roles that became attacking.

“All sports evolve. We like to have the balance of both.”

Two years ago, Armagh entered Pairc Esler as heavy favourites even though they were a Division Three side and the Mournemen were playing a league above them.

Armagh spurned a couple of goal chances in the opening half but couldn’t find a way around the Down defence in the second period and their challenge eventually fizzled out.

In the build-up to Sunday’s encounter, Darren O’Hagan noted that there was no love lost between the neighbouring counties.

However, McCorry said: “We don’t dwell on what happened two years ago… It’s not something we talk about in training. It’s not a case of: ‘Remember what these boys did two years ago.’

“Those days of preparation like that are gone with all modern coaches. It’s about what we learned in the games in the League and how we can apply those lessons in the Championship.

“There are differences in the way we’re playing now and there are differences in personnel – but it still doesn’t guarantee you a win.”

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