GAA Leagues: Down have never faced a "more pressurised" Spring says boss Tally

Paddy Tally's Down side face a tough start to the Division Three League campaign
Paddy Tally's Down side squandered a glorious chance to earn promotion to Division Two last Spring when they lost their final game to Louth
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Dates: Saturday and Sunday, 25-26 January Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Ulster MW, BBC Sport website, app and BBC Sounds Saturday from 16:45 GMT and Sunday 13:45

Paddy Tally says Down will "never face a more pressurised" Football League as they battle to avoid the dreaded drop into the new Championship second tier.

The Mourne County open up their Division Three campaign away to Tipperary on Sunday.

If Down fail to achieve promotion by the league's end, they will on the way to the second tier unless they reach the Ulster final in the summer.

"You have to hit the league running," said the Down manager.

"There's no easing your way into the league. After the third or fourth league match, you are going to have a fair idea of where you are going to be.

"Every manager in inter-county football will feel a certain amount of expectation or pressure, if you want to call it pressure, given the challenges that are ahead of them this year."

With Caolan Mooney ruled out as he recovers from injuries sustained on a night out and the Kilcoo contingent not yet available, Tally hands a league debut to Shane Annett.

New Tipperary manager David Power, who has former Dublin player Paddy Christie in his backroom team, will be without a number of experienced players including Michael Quinlivan and Liam Casey.

Derry manager Rory Gallagher
Down will face Rory Gallagher's Derry in their second Division Three game next weekend

The fixtures look to have handed Down with a particularly tough start as after their opening trip to Clonmel to face the 2016 All-Ireland semi-finalists, they are at home to Rory Gallagher's Derry before taking on Cork away.

"You couldn't really ask for a harder start," added Tally.

The Down manager says he understands that the GAA were entitled to look at revising the previous championship structure but he is not convinced basing championship status on league performance was the correct way to go.

"There was an opportunity to open the thing up to a different type of championship format.

"We could have had a round-robin system moving then towards a knockout competition and at that point you could have split the competition into an A and an B.

"If you hadn't progressed through your league group to be in the top competition, people could have dealt with that.

"To base it on the National League where you stay in the championship to me is a bit strange. It could have been done better."

Down blew promotion chance against Louth

However, Tally accepts the new system is now in place in what ultimately is a "results-based business".

In his first year in charge last season, Tally's side looked on course for promotion for most of the campaign before blowing their chance with a heart-breaking closing one-point home defeat by Louth.

"We had an opportunity where we could have been in Division Two but we didn't take it," recalls the Down manager.

"Now we have to go back and start again and push really hard to get promotion. That's the nature of it.

"It was the same in the championship. We fell short and didn't progress and we will have to look at that when the time comes."

Derry are in exactly the same scenario as Down in Division Three and they open their campaign on Saturday evening against Leitrim at Celtic Park.

Rory Gallagher has named Chrissy McKaigue as skipper for 2020 and he is among three Slaughtneil players named in the starting line-up.

Ballinderry's Ryan Bell is named at full-forward after impressing during the McKenna Cup but they will be without injured attacker Enda Lynn.

Down (v Tipperary): R Burns, P Fegan, B McArdle, R McAleenan, G Collins, D O'Hagan, S Annett, J Flynn, S Dornan, B O'Hagan, C Poland, D Guinness, O McCabe, D O'Hare, C Quinn. Subs: J O'Hare, N Donnelly, R Carr, P Murdock, P Havern, C Maginn, L Kerr, L Middleton, R McGarry, K McKernan, C Harney.

Derry: O Lynch; C McCluskey, P McGrogan, L McGoldrick; B Rogers, C McKaigue, C Doherty; G O'Neill, Emmett Bradley; E Duffy, D Tallon, C McFaul; B McCarron, R Bell, C Bradley. Subs: T Mallon, N Keenan, M McGrogan, R Dougan, C McWilliams, C McAtamney, S McGuigan, A Doherty, D Crossey, N Toner, P Hagan.

Leitrim (v Derry): D McKiernan; C Reynolds, F McTague, P Maguire; A Flynn, J Gilheany, C McGloin; D Wrynn, S Moran; S Quinn, D McGovern, D Flynn; P Dolan, D Rooney, K Beirne.



Division One
DonegalvMayoBallybofey - 19:15 GMT
Dublin vKerryCroke Park - 19:15
Division Two
ArmaghvCavanAthletic Grounds - 19:00
Division Three
DerryvLeitrimCeltic Park - 17:00
Cork vOffalyPairc Ui Chaoimh, 18:0
Division Four
CarlowvWicklowNetwatch Cullen Park, 19:00
WaterfordvLimerickFraher Field, 19:00

SUNDAY - 14:00 unless stated

Division One
TyronevMeathHealy Park
GalwayvMonaghanSalthill, 14:30
Division Two
RoscommonvLaoisDr Hyde Park
KildarevFermanaghNewbridge, 14:30
Division Three
LongfordvLouthPearse Park
Division Four
Antrim vWexfordGlenavy