Cathal Corey excited by Sligo challenge
By Cian O’Connell
For the past decade Cathal Corey has been busy stitching good Gaelic Football teams together at various levels of the game so the Tyrone native is delighted to now be operating in the senior inter-county arena.
Corey has enjoyed the first couple of months working with Sligo’s cocktail of youthful and experienced players, who earned an Allianz Football League Division Three win over Wexford last weekend. Next on the agenda is Sunday’s clash with a promising Fermanagh outfit, who have started impressively under new manager Rory Gallagher.
The recent signs suggest competent footballers are being produced in Sligo, who have contested Connacht minor finals in 2015 and a provincial Under 21 showpiece in 2017. In the Connacht Colleges Senior ‘A’ competition Sligo schools have been involved in seven of the last eight deciders.
Significant promise exists in the north west according to Corey. “That was the directive from the County Board whenever I met them at the start, they felt they had a few good young players and they would like to see them introduced to the panel to blend with the older players,” Corey admits.
“We have a few older heads and we wanted to get these boys in, to get them playing, to see what level they could play at. Some of them are ready, some of them are maybe a year or two away yet so we are just trying to find the right mix at the minute between the older and the younger boys.
“We want a strong and competitive Sligo team out on the field and we are just trying to find the balance and the mix. Even last Sunday we gave the full six subs a run, we are trying to get boys to do well, we are trying to survive in Division Three and we are trying to get boys experience at this level.”
With so many youngsters seeing action Corey is eager not to burden the Sligo players with unrealistic expectations or objectives.
“I've said it before our approach this year is to try to unearth and develop the younger boys, to integrate them into the senior panel,” Corey states.
“We haven't any real goals, that is being honest, we are just working away with the boys, we would love to stay in Division Three.
“We want to do that, but we have set no other goals than that. We went up to Armagh, they were very physically strong and on the day they were better. It was a tough day in Armagh, we conceded 2-17. Last week we picked the pace up and got a few more scores, but we were still lucky to get the two points.
“We are still feel we are only working to the stage where we start talking about setting goals and maybe promotion or doing well in the Championship. At the minute I don't want to bring young boys in putting targets and goals on them.
“If they feel under pressure it will be harder for them to show us exactly what they can do. At the minute we are trying to build a team, bring you boys in, to see where that brings us.”
The victory over Wexford was a satisfactory response following the Armagh reversal according to Corey.
“It was great to get the win, it is important to get those first two points on the table, they are hard ones to get.
“You probably always feel a little bit of pressure until you get them. Just for everybody involved it was great to get those two points, to get on to the board.”
Another source of optimism is the impending return of captain Kevin McDonnell following a demanding winter with injury. “Kevin will hopefully be back with us on the field very shortly,” Corey adds.
“He is a fantastic fella, to see how hard he works is incredible. His commitment, I have never seen anything like it.”
That type of enthusiasm and energy continues to be shown with Corey delighted to be involved.
“It is nice, of course, it is a massive honour for me and my family that I'm managing a senior team in Ireland,” Corey acknowledges.
“In Sligo the fellas are all fantastic, we have really nice people in our backroom, it is great surely. People always say it is different, but until you experience it you don't understand it. The level of professionalism, everything that has to be done has to be done right.
“We have to plan weeks in advance, it is a totally different level, but I'm enjoying it. We are working away, at the minute we are a bit unlucky with the weather being so bad, we are travelling to Longford on Tuesday nights and Sligo on Friday nights.
“We have 15 or 16 in Dublin, we have other fellas travelling from Galway, just at the minute with the dark evenings and terrible weather conditions it is tough, but I'm definitely enjoying it.
“With the time change soon when we are out on to the field in better weather, I can't wait for that. It is a big challenge, we are just working hard in training, some of the older players have been brilliant. They are encouraging the young boys, hopefully we can keep improving as we go along.”
Corey will supply guidance and inspiration as Sligo seek to make an impact this spring and summer.