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Tally puts faith in new guard as he sets sights on promotion

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Back again: Connaire Harrison

Back again: Connaire Harrison

�INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Back again: Connaire Harrison

In unleashing a raft of fresh talent into the high pressurised inter-county arena, Down football boss Paddy Tally has certainly shown the courage of his convictions.

As speculation swirled that he might opt to place his faith in a layer of talent from All-Ireland club beaten finalists Kilcoo when they became available, Tally instead has chosen to lean on relatively unknown players to steer his side into a position from which they can launch a full-blooded assault on a place in Division Two.

Should they win their remaining two matches against Leitrim and Louth, then Down look certain to go up, but Tally is taking nothing for granted, particularly in the wake of last year's frustrating failure to take the big step up.

In last weekend's fine win over Offaly, Ceilum Doherty, who missed much of last year because of injury, was the only Kilcoo player in the Down starting line-up, although Paul Devlin and Aaron Morgan were introduced from the bench.

With Daniel Guinness, Liam Kerr, Johnny Flynn and Shane Annett emerging from the shadows to make a name for themselves, Tally can contemplate the final phase of the league with some confidence.

"I would have to say that the boys we have put in there have been doing a first-class job, to the extent that competition for places has never been keener," points out Tally. "While we are happy with our progress to date, we know we will ultimately be measured on whether we get promoted or not."

With Connaire Harrison having returned from London and re-joined the panel, and Niall Donnelly getting game time again, Down can look to this additional sliver of experience to bolster his side's promotion surge. Both these players can expect to get more game time against Louth and Leitrim as Tally begins to fine-tune his line-up for the Ulster Championship.

"We are taking one game at a time right now but we know the Ulster Championship is just over the horizon and that will be a big challenge for us," points out Tally.

Belfast Telegraph