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Tally keen to tempt Kilcoo players back into thick of it for Down

 

Springboard: Paddy Tally looking forward to having more Kilcoo players at county level
Springboard: Paddy Tally looking forward to having more Kilcoo players at county level
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Not only was Kilcoo's recent Ulster title triumph the first ever for the club, but it represented a first win for a Down club in the province for a staggering 31 years.

Back then, Burren were coming to the end of a run of seven finals in eight years, five of which they won.

And there is a feeling among the Mourne county that this could be a springboard for ambitions to rise, according to county manager, Paddy Tally.

"I think there's no doubt that it'll inspire a lot of other clubs in Down to see what they can do. And I think that's a factor," said Tally, who is embarking upon his second season in charge.

"For the county I just think it's fantastic. And anybody that knows Kilcoo people and Kilcoo players, the community and the club, they will understand how hard this team worked to win that UlsSpringter title.

"No team has tried harder, no team has got over such big disappointments and consistently came back year after year. So it's a great sense of joy, relief, happiness and pride for Kilcoo people at the moment, which is fantastic."

In time, Tally will hope to convince more Kilcoo players into the county set-up. There is no doubt that the likes of Niall and Darryl Branagan would have something to offer if they can be tempted once their club runs conclude.

"The players we had last year, Paul (Devlin) and Ryan and Jerome Johnston, they were fantastic," explained Tally.

"We couldn't have asked for any more in terms of commitment from those lads. Ceilum Doherty was in for the early part of the season and opted out.

"Aaron Morgan is another lad who had a back injury last season and it is great seeing him back playing football.

"There's no doubt we would love to see more players playing for Down.

"They are certainly good enough. I think they would add an awful lot to what we are doing and I think it would give the county squad a real lift.

"But this is their time, to be with their club. And it's almost wrong of us to be discussing Kilcoo players. I am very much of the mind that this is their time to focus and give everything they have in pursuit of an All-Ireland title.

"And when that is over and their club season is over, maybe then we would be interested in doing all we can to bring them in."

Although Tally experienced a large turnover of players last year, he is further weakened by a number of stars who are currently in Australia, including the busy wing-forward Shay Miller, and full-back Gerard McGovern.

"Generally, players are away to do with work. Conor Francis is away to Australia for a year, Ruairi Wells took a job in Canada, so there are two players who were really good players with us and they have moved on," said Tally.

"That's life, that's what you have to deal with. Niall McParland is still working in Qatar, teaching kids out there.

"That's the way it is going. People's careers are taking them in different directions.

"We have to focus on what we have at home and develop what is there in the current Down squad.

"If other players became available down the line, we would take a look at them."

Down passed up a glorious opportunity to climb out of Division Three in their final league game with defeat by Louth.

"That left them tied at the top of the table with Westmeath and Laois and Down missed out on a single point on points difference.

They then lost to Armagh in an Ulster quarter-final before bowing out of the All-Ireland Championship in a round two defeat in Newry to Mayo.

Tally's assessment of his first year is that they have to do much better.

"Disappointed, to be honest with you," he begins, noting that promotion was scuppered, almost carelessly.

"There were a lot of positives in that we did expose a lot of players to county football for the first time. We blooded 19 in the league and 13 in the Championship.

"I do think there is an expectation to push on.

"And I think it is important that our players respect the importance of a really good league this year.

"We make no bones about it, there is going to be a renewed vigour on all teams to get out of Division Three to make sure they are in the right pot come the Championship, at the right end of the league."

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