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Down boss Jim McCorry is positive about Croker glory

By Declan Bogue

Spend any length of time with Jim McCorry and you soon learn that this is not a man who struggles with his confidence.

Things are busy. His day job is manager of leisure services in what was Newry and Mourne and Down District Council, recently 'rebranded' as Newry, Mourne and Down District Council on April 1, and the merger has been hectic.

Council work during the day has been followed by preparing for the changes along with his department, preparing budgets and making decisions.

Football is his release, and it happens to be going very well for him at present as he brings his Down side to tomorrow's Division Two league final against Roscommon in Croke Park.

Little wonder he has no time for those with considerable platforms and appetites for self-loathing.

Ask him about changes in the county game from 20 years ago and he shares some thoughts on tactical and rule alterations.

"Despite some of the so-called experts telling us that there were no such thing as sweepers and double-sweepers, drift defences and blanket defences, I think they existed in those days as well, just not as blatant as now," shares the former Killeavy, Armagh, Mayobridge and Kilcoo manager, before he gets to the media.

"Nowadays, virtually everything that is being reported, is being reported in a negative mode. There's not an awful lot of positivity out there. I would watch an awful lot of other sports. You find that rugby people are a lot more positive about their sport in how they talk about it," he explains.

"Obviously, when things are wrong they need to be discussed. I am not saying to sweep everything under the carpet. But when there is one wee bit of negativity, everybody jumps on that bandwagon. There is an awful lot of good going on in the game, within the counties and across the counties."

A good time then, to ask him of Colm O'Rourke's comment a fortnight ago when he wrote: "From a purist's point of view, I thought Down and Roscommon had a rotten style. Down, the great innovators and a county renowned for flair, were nearly the worst I have seen from a handpassing point of view."

A fairly stinging remark against a side tied with Armagh as the most prolific goalscorers in the league, and only one point off being the heaviest scorers in total.

McCorry replies: "Maybe all the pundits share notes on it, because there is another one writing in a Sunday paper who has called us dull and defensive. I don't think he has seen us at all by the time he wrote that. I don't think we had been televised. If Colm O'Rourke is going to base his assessment on the Meath game, then I think it would be unfair."

When noises were being made about the level of commitment required in county squads, McCorry's name wasn't directly dragged into it, but Benny Coulter's well-publicised retirement at the start of the year was cited to strengthen the argument that it was all too much.

McCorry responds, sharing that they took Christmas week off. And a week during the mid-February break in the leagues. Easter week too.

"Up until now we haven't told anybody not to be socialising, not to be drinking or going to weddings or stags," he adds. "Players have their own internal rules on how they prepare the weekend of games and obviously they are not out the night before having a charge of pints."

As for the departed, he forensically points out their limited involvement in last year's Championship.

"Benny (Coulter) was coming on for 15, 20 minutes in games. Ambrose (Rogers) wasn't playing in last year's Championship, Dan Gordon only joined the squad for the second game. Kalum King wasn't in the squad, so all the big names that people were talking about that we lost, probably hadn't been involved to the extent that they were perceived to be.

"Nobody can dispute the amount of years that the likes of Liam Doyle put in, Brendan McVeigh in goals, Benny Coulter, Ambrose Rogers, Dan Gordon, all those guys put in big shifts over the years and are at different points in their lives with families and careers and what they want to do.

"I suppose we all have to accept that it is going to come to an end some time."

It has been notable to read Donal O'Hare and Paul Devlin this week talk of their pride in Down football and how much they enjoy playing for this team. Nobody could see any evidence of puppet strings attached when they made the comments.

"There is a lot of fun within what we do. I have actually said this before, but I feel we are like a club in what we do, there is a club atmosphere here and they get on well together, they back each other up," says McCorry.

And McCorry is looking forward to this weekend, before the six-week lead-in to the Ulster Championship trip to Derry.

"It will be fantastic to get that experience of playing in Croke Park for all those that have played there before and those that are going down for their first time," McCorry beams.

A man who loves his work.

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