Paddy Tally plans to put Down on the right road
New Down boss Paddy Tally is bracing himself for the biggest challenge of his sporting career to date.
Fifteen years after training the first Tyrone team to win an All-Ireland title, Tally will call the shots when the Mourne County face Cavan in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Section A tie at Kingspan Breffni on Sunday (2.00pm).
And if his Down debut has set tongues wagging, then the fact that he is going head to head with new Cavan boss Mickey Graham has lent a fascinating sub-plot to the contest.
Graham, of course, is fresh from masterminding Mullinalaghta's stunning Leinster club championship triumph, an out of the blue success that provided a glorious finale to 2018.
Having piloted the 'half parish' club to three consecutive Longford titles, Graham's feat in plotting a provincial title coup and bringing Mullinalaghta into an All-Ireland club semi-final is the GAA equivalent of Roy of the Rovers material.
Tally, meanwhile, is keeping a strong focus on getting Down into their stride early, conscious that the team's other scheduled matches against Donegal and Queen's University will keep them on their toes prior to the league in which the Mournemen will do battle in Division Three.
Down will be missing some key players such as Gerard McGovern and Anthony Doherty, but Tally can take comfort from the fact that Joe Murphy, Aaron Morgan, Shay Millar, Colm Flanagan and Ronan Millar have come to the fore over the course of the past 18 months.
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Tally, aware that Down's tactics were questioned on occasions this year, is not prepared to take any radical steps to ensure the side progresses.
"I think one of our first challenges as management will be to try and get the balance of the side right," insists Tally.
"But then I suppose you could say that every manager will be trying to achieve this.
"We're not naive enough to think we can go completely defensive and be successful. That doesn't work either. You still have to commit enough players forward and play a system that's allowing your forwards to flourish as well, so getting that balance right will be crucial."
Tally is particularly keen to assemble a Down side that will prove difficult to defeat.
"I think this is important," he stresses. "We want other sides to find us hard to play against. We don't want to be conceding big scores if we can help it."
Tally plans to assess all the talent he has at his disposal over the course of the McKenna Cup in the hope of coming up with a team that will do itself justice in the league.
"It's not going to be easy in Division Three because there are a number of sides who will be very keen to move up from there, as you can well imagine," adds Tally.