Moran's salvo earns draw for battling Mayo
Down 3-7Allianz Football League Div 1
Parading no fewer than 11 of the side that lost to Cork in last year's All-Ireland final, Down looked in a strong position when they led Mayo by five points entering the final quarter of this engaging first-round clash at McHale Park, Castlebar, on Saturday evening.
However, new manager James Horan appears to have stirred something in the psyche of Mayo football as his side clawed their way back from arrears, which at one stage stood at seven points.
In the end, a late point from Andy Moran earned his side a richly deserved draw on a wet evening before a crowd of close to 7,000.
James McCartan's men ran the show in the first half, having beenboosted by a rather fortuitous goal after just two minutes when Martin Clarke's '45' found the back of the Mayo net.
There was no element of luck attached to Down's second goal, however, as Benny Coulter opened a gap for the second of the Clarke brothers -- John -- to crack home a superb goal and give his side a six- point lead on 20 minutes.
This was extended to seven by Martin Clarke, before a fine run by Alan Freeman ended with a cracking goal to leave Mayo trailing by 2-5 to 1-4 at the break.
The introduction of Conor Maginn in the second half appeared to have swung the issue in favour of Down when he nailed their third goal to restore a commanding five-point lead with 20 minutes remaining.
However, the visitors could only manage one more point for the rest of the game, as Mayo took command around midfield following the arrival of Tom Parsons, who swung things in favour of the home side.
Points from Andy Moran, Freeman, Kevin McLoughlin and Moran again brought Mayo to within a point with 10 minutes remaining, but the score of the match proved to be the leveller from Enda Varley, who hit a monster of a score with his left foot on 64 minutes.
Two minutes from time Down replied, Maginn scoring what appeared to be the winner and they could have wrapped up the game had they converted a couple more excellent chances.
But Mayo had one last drop in the tank, as Moran earned a share of the spoils with the leveller.
Both sides blew chances to win the game in injury-time as new boss Horan passed his first major test as an inter-county manager.
scorers -- Mayo: A Moran 0-6 (3f), A Freeman 1-1, M Ronaldson 0-3, E Varley, K McLoughlin, A Dillon 0-1 each. Down: M Clarke 1-3 (2f) J Clarke 1-1, C Maginn 1-1, D Hughes 0-2.
MAYO -- K O'Malley; T Cunniffe, C Hallinan, K Higgins; R Feeney, G Cafferkey, K McLoughlin; R. McGarrity, J. Gibbons; A. Moran, A. O'Shea, A Dillon; E. Varley, A. Freeman, M, Ronaldson. Subs: P Gardiner for Feeney (45), N Douglas for Ronaldson (45), T Parsons for J Gibbons (56), C O Connor for A Freeman (63).
DOWN -- B McVeigh; A Brannigan, D Gordon, L Howard; G McCartan, K McKiernan, P McPolin; P Fitzpatrick, K King; D Hughes, M Polan, M Clarke; P McComiksey, J Clarke, B Coulter. Subs: C McGinn for C King (47), R Murtagh for J Clarke (49), P Morney for P McPolin (61).
REF -- C Reilly (Meath).