Harrison ends Louth's brave resistance
Down 1-14 Louth 0-11
Connaire Harrison's late cameo secured Down an opening day victory against neighbouring Louth in Drogheda yesterday.
The Ulster side looked set for a comprehensive win when substitute Donal O'Hare put them 0-11 to 0-5 ahead with 18 minutes to play but Pete McGrath's side dug deep against his native county and cut the deficit to just two points.
Harrison, however, showed his class with a goal and two points that finally ended the Wee County's resistance.
Conall McKeever was a late inclusion in the Louth line-up and he won the free that William Woods converted for the third-minute opener. The Naomh Fionnbarra man added to it with another centrally-placed free just five minutes later.
The visitors took time to get going but they were level by the quarter hour mark through scores from Niall Donnelly and Aaron Morgan, the latter's effort defying the swirling wind.
Down established firm control when Caolan Mooney squeezed his effort inside the right-hand upright before Shay Millar had the sizeable travelling support applauding in the 20th minute with a well taken effort from wide on the right.
Louth needed a score to stem the tide and they got it two minutes later when Jim McEneaney's crossfield pass picked out Woods and he turned back inside to smash over.
Points from Darragh O'Hanlon and Morgan, either side of a Tommy Durnin score, gave Down some breathing space and they took a three-point advantage into the break when Harrison turned and popped over with his right foot from the 45m line.
Durnin's second of the game was just the start Louth would have wanted to the second half but things became extremely scrappy after that with stoppages puncturing any sort of flow to the game.
Four points in a seven minute spell looked to have put Down firmly in the box seat with O'Hanlon again proving ruthless from dead balls.
Louth, however, built up a head of steam themselves with Woods, captain Andy McDonnell and Derek Maguire bringing them within reach.
Their momentum was checked by Harrison, though, the Glasdrumman man hitting two classy points before landing a late, killer goal to get Down off to a winning start.
Scorers - DOWN: C Harrison 1-3, D O'Hanlon 0-3 (3f), A Morgan, C Mooney 0-2, N Donnelly, S Millar, K McKiernan, D O'Hare 0-1 each LOUTH: W Woods 0-6, (5f); T Durnin, D Maguire 0-2, A McDonnell 0-1.
DOWN - S Harrison 6; C Flanagan 6, G McGovern 7, B McArdle 7; D O'Hanlon 8, N McParland 7, A Doherty 6; C Poland 7, N Donnelly 7; S Millar 7, C Maginn 6, C Mooney 8; S Dornan 6, C Harrison 9, A Morgan 8. Subs: D O'Hare 7 for Dornan (HT); K McKiernan 7 for Maginn (41); D O'Hagan 7 for Doherty (45); D McKibbin 7 for Donnelly (49).
LOUTH - C Lynch 6; J Bingham 6, E Carolan 6, J Craven 6; D Marks 6, B Duffy 6, A Williams 6; T Durnin 8, A McDonnell 6; D Maguire 7, J McEneaney 7, C McKeever 6; D Byrne 6, G McSorley 6, W Woods 7. Subs: J Stewart 6 for McKeever (35 mins); C Grimes 5 for Stewart (56); R Holcroft 5 for Byrne (58); T McEnaney 5 for McSorley (67).
REFEREE - C Reilly (Meath).