Jim McCorry prepares more changes for big test with Monaghan
The first McKenna Cup for any incoming manager can be a tricky period akin to cramming before an exam, but Down manager Jim McCorry can see both perspectives of having an experimental squad as they travel to Clones to face Monaghan this Sunday (throw-in 2pm).
Last weekend, Monaghan managed to ride out a late flurry by the galaxy of stars of Jordanstown to win their opening tie, and their home record under Malachy O'Rourke has been impressive as they have risen through the league structures to reclaim their place in the top flight.
Meanwhile, McCorry has had to plan without retired veteran Benny Coulter while the return of Dan Gordon and Dan McCartan is unclear at present.
As they began their group stages on Sunday with defeat to Cavan, it was noticeable how threadbare the Down team were, especially without Aidan Carr and Mark Poland in their customary centre-back and centre-forward positions.
McCorry explained: "Aidan and Mark both got married in the week between Christmas and New Year. They are both on honeymoon at the moment and they are going for extended honeymoons, away for three or four weeks.
"It's something they had planned away back and they are both gone."
Spelling out the extent of the Down absences, he added: "Darragh O'Hanlon and Niall Donnelly both had holidays booked before they joined the squad. We are missing both of them. Then, supposedly four Jordanstown players, four Warrenpoint players are missing as well as they are involved in the Ulster Intermediate Championship.
"On top of that, we have seven university players. So we have quite a few missing at the moment - about 15 or so.
"It's an interesting scenario and we only have 22 players available to work with."
Although the absent list is long, McCorry also believes that it gives those that were flagged up in his trial process plenty of opportunity to impress.
"That's the beauty of it. The positives you can take out of not having a lot of players is that the guys who are there have a good opportunity to stake a place, not only on the team but on the squad," said the former Kilcoo manager.
"We probably have to pare the squad back after the McKenna Cup, so it's an opportunity for people to stay on."
After managing his native Armagh for a spell in the mid-90s, McCorry is now in the big leagues and spoke of his respect for fellow managers, such as Monaghan's Malachy O'Rourke, who he comes up against on Sunday.
He said: "Malachy had a proven track record before he got to Monaghan and he has enhanced it even more. They performed well against a very strong Jordanstown side last Saturday, so we are not going there expecting anything light.
"It's going to be very physical. They have a lot of skilful players - a big, strong midfield.
"Our debutants, and re-debutants, and the couple of guys who were on the panel last year but didn't get much playing time, we have a lot of new faces there."
McCorry added: "We will try maybe five or six changes this Sunday again, and really as much as everybody wants to result and wants to win, I suppose the McKenna Cup is about what you get out of the games and preparation for the league."
Jim McCorry is the subject of this weekend's Saturday Interview