Down lacking winner's edge
DOWN have always been attractive visitors to Croke Park over the years, so there were high expectations for their latest visit – only about their third since winning the 1994 All-Ireland – when they met Armagh in the Division 2 final yesterday.
Alas, this was no vintage showing from Down as they looked only a pale shadow of their great teams of the past. Certainly they have plenty of potential and some exciting players from their successful minor and U-21 teams, but they are badly missing the cuteness that only comes with hard battles against superior teams.
So manager James McCartan will not be very despondent after this narrow defeat, even if the road ahead looks difficult in an Ulster context.
The blossoming partnership in attack between Marty Clarke and Benny Coulter could well form the basis for a winning Down team in the future.
Armagh won because they had the cuter players, most notably Steven McDonnell and Ciaran McKeever. When an always tight game was there to be won in the final 10 minutes, it was Armagh who had the cutting edge to outscore Down by five points to two in that crucial period and deservedly won the title.
By Ulster local rivalry standards between Down and Armagh, this was fairly anaemic stuff but nevertheless entertaining – in a nice sort of way!