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St Mary's Belfast manager Paddy Tally.
St Mary's Belfast manager Paddy Tally.

Paddy Tally: ‘There is certainly an air of anticipation’


By Cian O’Connell

For most of the past decade St Mary’s, Belfast have been the great Independent.ie Sigerson Cup competitors.

That is why reaching the last four of the competition carries so much satisfaction for St Mary’s, who continue to be well organised and managed by Paddy Tally.

An epic Quarter-Final tussle with DCU went the distance, but the Ranch survived booking their place at the weekend. “It has been a long time coming around here,” Tally remarks about a string of near misses. “There have been a lot of close calls in the last number of years so it is nice to get into the last four. We are looking forward to the challenge of it.

“It was good, the type of game it was as much as anything else, the type of game it was, we were able to hold out at the end. There was immense satisfaction.

“We knew that after being around Quarter Finals for the last number of years you are going to meet a really, really good team. Everybody is fighting to get to the weekend. So it was immensely satisfying to get through, but we know that bigger challenges lie ahead.”

Throughout the years Mary’s have admirably competed against teams with greater playing numbers and resources.

Paddy Tally celebrating in 2003 when Tyrone won the All Ireland title.
Paddy Tally celebrating in 2003 when Tyrone won the All Ireland title.

“We don't play on it as such, it is just the way it is,” Tally says. “It is a natural thing that happens when a young lads comes in here starting their football in their Fresher Year.

“They do buy into the ethos of what we are trying to do. Firstly and foremost the priority here is the academic progression of the lads. We always find that sport and the GAA in particular has a big part to play in their development. Not just in sporting terms, but also academically.

“We try to marry the two together. They do really buy into that ethos, we are very honest on what we are about here. We don't try to make ourselves out to be something we are not. You play football here because you love playing football. That is the most important thing, that you love the game.

“There is that thing when you come up against Universities that are much, much bigger than us and have much more resources, finance and pick of players, there is an underdog mentality. That is okay, we can live with that.

“We never forget the fact that we have good footballers, we try to tell them that as well as they go through that they are as good as anyone else. On a given day they just have to make sure that they fulfil their potential.”

The majority of Tally’s panel are currently going through a demanding Teaching Practice schedule, but there is a notable buzz around St Mary’s.

Paddy Tally was involved in James McCartan's backroom team when Down reached the 2010 All Ireland Final.
Paddy Tally was involved in James McCartan's backroom team when Down reached the 2010 All Ireland Final.

“It is sort of strange here at the minute because most of my lads are out on Teaching Practice in schools,” Tally explains.

“They aren't actually on campus at the moment, they have been on teaching practice for the past two weeks so they have been up and down for training. They are coming in doing bits and pieces whenever we can get them.

“The people in the college, the staff, the lecturing staff and everyone else around the place like the security men and the people in the canteen, everybody is very much aware of what is coming up at the end of the week. It is a communal effort at St Mary's, we all play our part. There is certainly an air of anticipation.”

Tally isn’t overly concerned about the balancing act those Mary’s players are currently doing. “Maybe it isn't a bad thing either,” Tally states about the Teaching Practice stint happening at the same time as the Sigerson preparations.

“They have a lot on, they are all preparing their lessons, teaching their classes, doing their work. They probably haven't time to sit down during the day to think about it, which for me is a good thing.

“I'm a big believer in people just getting on with their normal lives and I think you have to have that balance in all aspects of your life. It is just a normal routine for them, they are doing their work.” On and off the pitch.

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