McCartan takes heart after Down mount solid response
Down 1-16, Leitrim 1-8
A fairly predictable outcome in the end, but behind the scoreline was a Down team stuttering through the qualifiers against a Leitrim side who are now the only team never to win a game since the back-door system was introduced.
Waterford's win in London ensured that Leitrim are now the only side without a win and while they gave a fully committed performance at Pairc Esler, the outcome was never really in doubt.
There was a hint of an upset when Adrian Croal got in for a goal just after half-time to put Leitrim in front, but that was enough to rattle Down into action and, with Benny Coulter in top form, they hit eight points without reply.
James McCartan said that while there was a lot of work to be done, he was pleased with the way they responded to the challenge after Leitrim hit the front after half-time.
"It was a good win and Leitrim put it up to us for long periods. Ten minutes into the second half it was game-on and it was up to us to respond after they got a goal," he said. "We were the ones kicking on after their goal and that was encouraging."
It remains to be seen if Mickey Moran will stay on as Leitrim boss -- he declined to discuss it afterwards -- but he feels they are making progress.
"I thought the effort the lads put in and the football they played was terrific. They dominated the break- ball situation in the second half and that was key," he said. "Down upped the ante and countered our sweeper again, but I am very proud of the lads. They gave it everything they had."
Leitrim's lack of firepower meant they could not turn good chances into scores and Down were never seriously troubled. Coulter was always on hand to steady the ship, landing three excellent points in the opening half and firing over four more after the restart.
McCartan's men held a 1-5 to 0-6 lead at the interval, but a goal from a Marty Clarke penalty after 15 minutes put them in control.
The goal put Down 1-3 to 0-1 in front and it seemed as if they would pull away from there but Leitrim, who played seven men in defence, rallied superbly and hit three points without reply.
Down were rocked when Leitrim got in for a goal 90 seconds after the restart when Brian McDonald set up Croal and the Glencar/Manorhamilton clubman did superbly to find the net.
Coulter led the admirable Down response as they hit eight points without reply.
Liam Doyle, Mark Poland, Marty Clarke and Kevin McKernan found the range but it was Coulter who ignited the crowd with some exquisite scores, which tore the heart out of Leitrim.
A point from Peter Fitzpatrick put Down 1-13 to 1-6 in front after 54 minutes before Emlyn Mulligan stopped the rot with a pointed free 14 minutes from the end, but there was no hope of a late Leitrim rally.
Scorers -- Down: B Coulter 0-7, M Clarke 1-2 (1-0 pen, 1 '45'), M Poland (1f), C Laverty 0-2 each, L Doyle, K McKernan, P Fitzpatrick 0-1 each. Leitrim: A Croal 1-1, E Mulligan 0-3 (3f), R Lowe, B McDonald, J Glancy, C Kelly 0-1 each.
Down -- B McVeigh 6; B McArdle 6, K McKernan 6, A Branagan 6; D Rooney 6, K Duffin 7, C Garvey 7; D Gordon 7, K King 6; L Doyle 7, M Clarke 7, B Coulter 9; M Poland 8, C Laverty 7, P McComiskey 6. Subs: C Maginn 6 for McComiskey (40), P Fitzpatrick 6 for Duffin (42), C Mooney 7 for Doyle (58), A Carr 6 for Coulter (62), D Raferty 6 for Garvey (65).
Leitrim -- C McCrann 8; P Maguire 6, J McKeon 6, D Reynolds 7; B Prior 7, G Reynolds 7, D Beck 7; D Lowe 6, D Sweeney 6; R Lowe 7, B McDonald 8, C Clarke 6; E Mulligan 7, J Glancy 7, A Croal 8. Subs: C Kelly 6 for McDonald (44), C Sheridan 6 for R Lowe (52), B McWeeney 6 for G Reynolds (58), F Clancy 6 for Clarke (65).
REF -- M Sludden (Tyrone).