Clarke pulls strings in Down shooting masterclass
SHARP-SHOOTING Down produced a brilliant display of attacking football to overcome Monaghan at Pairc Esler in Newry on Saturday.
The Mournemen asserted their supremacy right from the throw-in, scoring a point after just 20 seconds to take a lead they never again lost.
Monaghan battled throughout and, like Down, displayed some great teamwork, moving the ball with pace and accuracy. However, it was in attack that the difference between the sides was most evident.
All six of the Down attackers got on the scoresheet. In contrast, only two Monaghan forwards managed scores, with the place-kicking of Paul Finlay keeping the Farney men in the game.
Down's Martin Clarke produced brilliant display of precision football. He ranged between defence and attack laying off excellent passes that resulted in scores for his colleagues. His first-half, long-range point from play was superb and came at a time when Down needed a lift. Overall, a magnificent display throughout from Clarke.
In a highly entertaining game, Down, at times, overdid the short-passing game and were intermittently hesitant when it came to taking a score. Clarke pulled the strings in attack having a hand in most of their scores, as well as netting the vital penalty midway through the second half.
Along with Danny Hughes and Paul McComiskey they gave the Monaghan defence a tough time, although Vinny Corey, Dessie Mone and Neil McAdam worked hard to stem the tide of Down attacks.
Neither side was dominant at midfield, with Dick Clerkin catching the eye for Monaghan. However, it was the Down half-back line, of Conor Garvey, Kevin McKernan and Declan Rooney, that was the stand-out sector from either side as it snuffed out the Monaghan attack.
Down opened with points from Hughes and Mark Poland and kept up the pressure to lead by 0-4 to 0-2 midway through the half with Paul Finlay pointing two frees for Monaghan.
Clarke and McComiskey hit Down points, but again the accurate Finlay pointed two frees. Down forged further ahead with points from Rooney, Hughes and a brilliant long-range point from play by Clarke. Monaghan rallied with two points but Down led by 0-8 to 0-6 at half-time.
Down restarted and tacked on points from Conor Maginn and although Paul Finlay pointed from play, Down went further ahead with two points.
Conor McManus then pointed a Monaghan free, but with 19 minutes gone in the second half, Benny Coulter was hauled down by Vinny Corey and Clarke slotted the resultant penalty to the net. Clarke and McComiskey added points with Down scoring 1-6 without reply as the Monaghan challenge began to wilt.
With the game entering the final 10 minutes, the sides exchanged points three times as Down cruised to an eight-point triumph.
Man of the Match: Martin Clarke (Down)
Scorers -- Down: M Clarke 1-4 (1-0 pen, 3f), P McComiskey 0-3, D Rooney, D Hughes, M Poland 0-2 each, B Coulter, A Carr, C Maginn 0-1 each. Monaghan: P Finlay 0-8 (6f), C McManus 0-2 (1f), C Galligan 0-1.
Down -- D Alder 8; G McCartan 7, D Gordon 7 B McArdle 7; C Garvey 8, K McKernan 8 D Rooney 8; P Fitzpatrick7, K King 7; D Hughes 7, M Poland 7, C Maginn 7; P McComiskey 8, B Coulter 8, M Clarke 9. Subs: R Murtagh 7 for M Poland, M Doran 7 for C Garvey, R Sexton 7 for C Maginn, D McCartan for B McArdle, A Carr for B Coulter.
Monaghan -- M Keogh7; K Duffy 7, V Corey 8, C Walshe 7; N McAdam 7, D Mone 8, D Hughes 7; D Clerkin 8, E Lennon 7; C McGuinness 7, M Downe7, J Turley 6; T Freeman 7, P Finlay 8, C McManus 8. Subs: B McKenna for E Lennon 7, E Duffy 7 for C McGuinness, B O'Brien 6 for T Freeman, S Smith 6 for M Downey, C Galligan for D Hughes.
Ref -- D Coldrick (Meath).