New Down manager Paddy Tally says working with the Galway footballers this year gave him a new appreciation of the game and gave him the ambition to become an inter-county manager.
Renowned as a quality coach after helping Tyrone to a first All-Ireland SFC title in 2003, Tally had spells with Down and Derry before joining Kevin Walsh’s backroom team for 2018, helping them reach a league final and their first All-Ireland semi-final since 2001. However, he has also been labelled as a defensive coach by pundits like Joe Brolly, who attributed Galway’s defensive set-up this year to the influence of the Galbally man.
“Galway was great because it opened my eyes to a different way of approaching football,” Tally said.
“They view things differently… there’s a different atmosphere about things. Ulster football is very parochial and, especially working in third level education here, you nearly know every player that comes through. Out west, you don’t know anybody so you really are just looking at it from an outside point of view, which was good for me because I was really able to judge things differently.
“It was good for me personally as well because I hadn’t been around a county set-up in a few years, so it opened my eyes to that level again and maybe whetted my appetite for getting back in at county level.”
Tally led St Mary’s to an unlikely Sigerson Cup success in 2017 but he inherits a Down team that was hammered by 13 points by Donegal in this year’s Ulster semi-final. They’ll also begin 2019 in Division Three. The county has been considered a soft touch for most of this decade and in light of that, Tally has vowed to make the Mourne men hard to beat – and has no intention of listening to the“flawed” analysis of pundits.
“I don’t really pass any remarks on it to be honest with you, I never did, “ he says of pundits. “If you lived your life and were influenced too much by what people think about you or say about you in terms of football, you wouldn’t do an awful lot.
“Galway played a certain way and, as much as we were tight at the back, we were also very good up front as well. It’s trying to get that balance right and I think every team does that – that’s no different than what’s happening all over Ireland.
“Now, if it doesn’t suit somebody’s palette, I can do nothing about that. All I can do is put a system in place that is the best for this particular team.
“I think it’s... I wouldn’t say it’s weak analysis, but certainly it’s flawed in a lot of ways. It’d be quite weak of me to organise a team, or to coach a team, to satisfy a pundit, or a number of pundits. That wouldn’t be the way forward.” Tally has brought Down great Benny Coulter into his backroom team and confirmed burly full-forward Connaire Harrison, who is currently London-based, will return to the squad after he gets married in the New Year.
While he says he likes the way Down approach football, Tally knows he must make them defensively sound before they can progress.
“Obviously, we have to be smart about this – we have to be hard to beat. Any team that’s successful is hard to beat.
“We’re not naïve 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.”