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Down boss Jim McCorry still has critics to win over

By John Campbell

Winning over what he calls "the doubters" will be a priority for Jim McCorry's rejuvenated Down side when they confront Roscommon in the Allianz Football League Division Two final at Croke Park on Sunday.

Even though the Mournemen have already attained Division One status, McCorry remains unconvinced that his side have not quite enjoyed the full level of credit they deserve.

And the former Armagh boss, who in recent years has masterminded three Down championship titles for the all-conquering Kilcoo club, believes that the best way his side can answer the cynics is by gaining maximum revenge for the early defeat they suffered at the hands of Roscommon in the league.

McCorry, who whisked his squad off to London for an intensive three-day training stint as part of their preparation for what is viewed as a hugely attractive divisional final, is anxious to see the players revel at Headquarters.

"I know that we have got into Division One by topping Division Two which I think was more than deserved in my book although there may have been doubters who said that a bit of cloak and dagger stuff led to us stealing results at the end," declares McCorry.

"But from my point of view the last time I was involved in coaching they were 70-minute games and you played right to the end, including whatever stoppage time was added on.

"That's what these guys have been doing all along where other teams might have taken their foot off the pedal. Whether you get goals at the start or at the end they all count because the bottom line is the final score.

"I think a lot of people did not give our players the credit they deserved. I am convinced they thought at the outset of the league that this was going to be a consolidation exercise in Division Two at best for us this year but while that was our minimum target, every competition and every game we participate in we are going to be competing full out at it.

"Now because of that we have a very enticing final to look forward to on Sunday and that's very much where our focus lies."

Down may have left it late to get some important results, especially their wins over Galway and Kildare, but McCorry believes that his players' commitment, resilience and renewed sense of pride will serve them well on Sunday.

What were initially perceived to be selection gambles, notably the inclusion of Stephen Kane in goal, the stationing of Gerard Collins at left-full-back and the recall of Luke Howard at full-back, have proved master-strokes while the manner in which he has overseen the return of Caolan Mooney to top-flight football has been exemplary.

McCorry exercised patience in bringing the former Australian Rules ace back into his side but for Down fans the wait was worth it when the two-time Hogan Cup winner with St Colman's College Newry offered a master-class in creative play in the last league outing against Laois.

Not surprisingly, McCorry feels that the elegant Mooney can represent the heartbeat of his team at Croke Park.

"Caolan is a class act. He had problems with his hamstring and earlier in the year he was playing with his university side so we did not see as much of him as we would have liked," explains McCorry.

"We were trying to ease him back into games and he got a bit of a dead leg against Laois so we took him off as a precautionary measure. But he can play anywhere and that's a good thing."

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