Costello provides spark to leave Down facing into abyss
Dublin 1-15 Down 1-7
Dublin hammered another nail in the Down coffin as it continued on its mournful procession back to Division 2. With relegation now an inevitable destination for Eamonn Burns and a side that remains pointless after five games, there's nothing left to play for in the remainder of this ill-fated campaign but pride.
Dublin's march to the NFL semi-finals never looked like being stalled at Pairc Esler last night, and while they never came close to their best, they did lay on some top-class entertainment in the first half.
Cormac Costello's first-half goal turned the game in the defending league champions' favour, and Down lacked the penetration and game management to drag themselves back in to it, after they had taken a shock lead with a Donal O'Hare goal.
Down's first goal of the campaign came gift-wrapped, courtesy of a Stephen Cluxton error in the fifth minute. O'Hare's shot from distance was designed as a point, but the keeper fumbled the ball over his own line.
The home side went 1-2 to 0-1 ahead through Joe Murphy, but soon the Dubs were in control, assisted in no small way by goalkeeper Michael Cunningham's difficulties in finding his own men from kick-outs.
Jim Gavin's charges gratefully exploited their subsequent dominance of possession, hitting 1-2 in the space of two minutes.
Costello smashed home the 18th-minute goal after Kevin McManamon's shot had been blocked, and their fluid movement, pressing high up the pitch, had the Mourne men constantly on the back foot, unable to break out of their own half for lengthy stretches.
The All-Ireland champions shot 1-7 without reply, with Costello knocking over a couple of frees, and Paul Flynn, McManamon and Ciaran Kilkenny also on target.
Down went 26 minutes without a score, until O'Hare converted a free, but they had been pummelled in a punishing first half, and were somewhat grateful to be just five points behind at the halfway stage, 1-8 to 1-3.
As the Dubs eased further ahead, they should have had a second goal, but Cunningham saved well from McManamon, who turned the rebound over the bar.
Flynn departed on a black card soon after kicking a brilliant second point, and Down pulled back scores through O'Hare, Murphy and substitute Paul Devlin.
The Dubs were struggling to rediscover the fluidity of the first half, but still created goal chances, another spurned by sub Eric Lowndes, who pulled his shot wide. But they were able to arrow over some eye-catching scores from distance against a tighter Down rearguard, with Jonny Cooper getting forward to hit the target, before Paddy Andrews came off the bench to land a peach.
Devlin just missed with a fiercely-struck shot and full-back Gerard McGovern saw an effort come back off the post as Down moved into the final five minutes trailing by seven.
Diarmuid Connolly ended a quiet evening without a score, and while the Dubs will have better days in pursuit of a fourth successive league title, they emerged from the Marshes with both points and a measure of comfort.
Scorers - Dublin: C Costello 1-4 (0-4f), D Rock 0-3 (1 f, 1 '45) C Kilkenny, K McManamon, P Flynn 0-2 each, P Andrews, J Cooper 0-1 each. Down: D O'Hare 1-2 (0-2f), J Murphy 0-2, P Devlin, D O'Hanlon, M McKay 0-1 each.
Down: M Cunningham; G Collins, G McGovern, D O'Hagan; J Flynn, A Carr, D O'Hanlon; P Turley, M McKay; C Maginn, R Mallon, K McKernan; C McGovern, D O'Hare, B O'Hagan.
Subs: J Murphy for McKernan (6, BC), P Devlin for Mallon (47), L Howard for Carr (51), C Harrison for O'Hagan (51), H Brown for McKay (57).
Dublin: S Cluxton; D Byrne, M Fitzsimons, J Small; J McCarthy, P McMahon, J Cooper; B Fenton, S Carthy; P Flynn, D Connolly, C Kilkenny; C Costello, K McManamon, D Rock. Subs: S B Carthy for Flynn (43, BC), P Andrews for McManamon (46), E Lowndes for S Carthy (46), D Bastick for Fenton, T Brady for Costello (56), D Daly for Cooper (66).
Referee: D O'Mahony (Tipperary).
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