GAA Football

Down need 'big improvement' to land first win of campaign against Ulster rivals Derry

Down boss Paddy Tally hopes to see a major improvement from his side against Derry after struggling to break down a dogged, defensive Tipperary on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

DOWN boss Paddy Tally isn’t panicking about failing to get off to a winning start in the National League, but admits his side needs to show “a big improvement” if they are to overcome Ulster rivals Derry on Saturday night.

The Mournemen snatched a draw in Tipperary on Sunday, coming from two points back late on to grab a share of the spoils.

Considering the Oak Leafs also began their campaign with a surprise draw at home to Leitrim, the stakes are high for both counties as they bid to step up their promotion push at Pairc Esler.

It is the first of Down’s three home games and while Tally would love to kick-start their campaign with a win, he knows there is plenty to work on following a below-par performance in Clonmel.

“It would be great but we’re going to have to improve,” said the Galbally man, who hopes to have experienced defender Benny McArdle and midfielder Johnny Flynn back in contention for starts on Saturday after missing out on the opener.

“The atmosphere’s brilliant in Pairc Esler on a Saturday night, so with a Derry-Down game, there’s a bit of history there over the years, I suspect a lot of Derry people might travel to that match as well.

“The only way we’re going to get a win is if we improve on our play; the one thing that let us down today was our shooting, we created a lot of chances and we didn’t take them. That’s disappointing because we would back our players to be more efficient in front of goal, but we missed free-kicks too and at crucial times in the match.

“We’ve lots to work on. If we want to beat Derry next week, we need a big improvement.”

One of the bright spots on an otherwise frustrating day for Down was the performance of Owen McCabe.

The Carryduff man has a prodigious leap and showcased his aerial ability in the square throughout, eventually landing the 65th minute equaliser after collecting a superb pass from substitute Liam Kerr.

“We feel we can get change out of that if we get the ball in,” said Tally.

“There were times we did do well in there, there was two in the first half – one looked like a penalty that we didn’t get, Owen McCabe was being held as he caught the ball. And then there was another one, Cory Quinn caught the ball and looked like he was fouled by the goalkeeper.

“It was successful enough at times. In the second half we seemed to rush it, some of the balls were kicked in and there was nothing there at all. You have to try and mix the game up.

“If you’re playing against a team playing that many behind the ball, sometimes an early ball in can work.”

They could face a similar challenge against Rory Gallagher’s Derry in a game where defeat for either would be a major hammer blow, even at this early stage of the season.

Tally, though, will not be pushing the panic button regardless of what transpires beneath the Newry lights.

“This time last year we had no points after the first match against Laois and we still went to the last game of the League where we still had a chance of promotion.

“It was important today that we came away with something - if we had come away without anything at all you’d have been really disappointed and then you question a lot of things.

They showed a lot of spirit with 10 to go, two points down and they still came back at it. That’s a good trait, something we’ve been building on.

“Next week is a whole new different game, Derry will come in jubilant after coming back from being well down. This is going to be a very tight League, so I don’t expect much different; it’ll be another tight match.”

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