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New boss Jim McCorry will ensure Down fight as one

By Declan Bogue

Kilbroney Park is a two-minute walk from Jim McCorry's front door in Rostrevor.

He walks to the Furry Glen, before continuing through the park to the big stone. Whenever he wants to talk his mind down a little, it is on this hillside desolate that he achieves it.

Occasionally, he might bump into Pete McGrath who trains down below in the meadow. Mainly they pass each other in their cars. Down past, Down present.

But before McCorry could cut turf with a stud in the Down job, he had to go through the tedium all incoming managers experience.

"I said previously that when you are appointed, you have a pen in your hand for the first three weeks trying to get all the administration end of things and the backroom team sorted out," McCorry reveals.

He outlines the early duties: "You have to look at triallists, look at panellists, look at training regimes, getting your secondary backroom team sorted out. There's an awful lot of organisation at the start. It's really not what you would like to be doing."

To complicate the issue, he led Kilcoo to the Down Championship in early October and into another Ulster club campaign from there.

Thankfully, everything is in its place now with John Morgan and Mark Copeland his coaches, but he adds: "I like to be active as a manager. I like to be on the field coaching and directing, going through the drills."

And then there is his work with Newry and Mourne Council. The official job title is Director of Technical Services and Leisure, further complicated with the introduction of the new 'Super Council', which will begin life on April Fool's Day, coincidentally.

So, a busy time?

"Absolutely. It's very busy because you are at council work during the day and then you have the pressures of getting the new council ready," he says. "It will probably start to lessen after January, when budgets are prepared and decisions are made, and new directors are appointed."

He has spent 28 years in Down now, after he and Róisín married.

Given that length of time, his friends and neighbours say he is practically a naturalised Down man. A couple of years back, he crossed the tipping point and realised he has lived longer in Down than his native Armagh.

To that end, his accession to become James McCartan's successor was a natural fit.

It came along at the right time too. Róisín is Deputy Head of Sport in the Southern Regional College in Newry and dedicated to her work.

That level of activity fends off empty nest syndrome. Their son Odhran - the physical trainer of Jim's Kilcoo teams - is currently working in Glasgow as a personal trainer while daughter Tara is in Sydney.

"We miss them terribly," he says, "but that's what you have to let them do. You have to let them enjoy the experience."

Ask him about it now and he might concede that managing Armagh back in the mid-90s, along with John Morrison, may have come too soon. He was only finished playing himself. Suddenly, he had to manage former team-mates and had only two years of coaching experience at Killeavy.

"That was a long time ago," he smiles. "I think I might have had hair then!

"There was no real sports science then. The idea of mental strength, sports psychology, people having a proper diet, proper hydration, wasn't talked about. Now, if you don't do that, people will ask why you don't have a sports science backroom team."

He continues: "That part of it has changed. Football style has changed. You will see that things are very geared towards the defensive systems, specialist coaches who work in the game; defensive coaches, attacking coaches and stuff.

"So there are a lot of differences, some of them for the good and some of them haven't helped the game that much.

"The one thing is that you will find it is geared on a much more professional basis for the preparation end of it. Guys are much more tuned in about their lifestyle, what they need to do off the field as well as on the field."

There are some anecdotes out there about McCorry and Morrison attempting to implement certain techniques with Armagh that perhaps were unsuitable to some players.

"You used to get a big strapping guy who is working on a building site that maybe doesn't want to try certain types of food in their lunchbox," he recalls with a laugh.

"Or some players may not like the idea of imagery - sitting with their eyes closed imagining they are on a beach and stuff, or scoring a goal, picturing a positive image.

"That's changed now. Everybody wants to embrace it. Was it Clive Woodword who said about the critical non-essentials? You must have all these bits in place to give you the extra one percent and then you have that perceived advantage over the opposition who don't have that."

Down began life in the McCorry era last Sunday. With a weakened outfit they lost meekly to Cavan, but once they get their men back from Universities and honeymoon they will be a different prospect.

McCorry's teams are noted for their blue-collar approach, so little wonder that he cites San Antonio Spurs basketball coach Gregg 'Pop' Popovich as one of his coaching touchstones.

He hails the selflessness of their superstars, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker: "You still need your marquee players. That's important.

"But you need to have the rest of the guys like a team, working around them and I think one of Pop's strengths is what he gives players in their team work and their identity. They all work for each other."

Just like Kilcoo did. And so will Down.

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