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McCartan's double sinks Kildare but can't save Down from drop

Down produced one of their best displays of the season in Newry but were still relegated from Division 1.

Two goals from Eoin McCartan and a third from Kevin McKernan ensured the Mournemen signed off from the top flight with a fine victory.

Kildare, already assured of a place in the league semi-finals, were in experimental mode as Kieran McGeeney took the opportunity to try Padraig O'Neill at centre-back and Peter Kelly at wing-forward.

On paper, there may not have been much at stake for either team but James McCartan's side played with a lot of heart, as they've done for most of the campaign. This time, though, they also got the result.

They looked like a team determined not to leave the top tier without a fight and despite trailing on three occasions by a single point in the first quarter, Eoin McCartan's goal in the 17th minute ignited their afternoon.

Afterwards, his big brother James was upbeat about the performance.

"In six of our seven games we have been ahead at half-time but have not held on. This is the first time we have put two good halves back-to-back so we're delighted with that," he said.

McGeeney was not too perturbed about the defeat. Kildare were cut open too frequently for his liking and 12 wides said much about their finishing. But there were a number of positives, such as the eye-catching display of Paul Cribbin, who won a number of kick-outs with some fine catches and kicked 0-2 in the second half.

O'Neill's positioning at centre-back was not without its plus points and Johnny Doyle shrugged off a recent shoulder injury to land five points. The run-outs for Leinster U-21 winning players like Sean Hurley and Niall Kelly will also benefit Kildare as they move into the business end of the spring campaign.

"We made a lot of silly mistakes and there was confusion which led to three goals, with fellas getting caught out of position," said McGeeney.

"But we changed a lot of things up today. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't."

McCartan's goal still separated the teams at half-time, Down leading by 1-6 to 0-6.

Kildare picked off nice scores through Doyle and Eoghan O'Flaherty but Down found a unique way of resolving the defensive problems which have dogged their campaign, playing at one stage with all 15 men behind the ball.

The tactic worked, as they stripped Kildare of possession and ended up winning a free at the other end, which Donal O'Hare converted.

Two minutes after the interval, Eoin McCartan latched on to a loose ball to toe-poke the ball home into the net. With Kildare's defence unusually porous, McKernan stretched Down's lead further with a third goal on 55 minutes. That put the home side nine points up.

Down have coughed up a few big leads this season and although Padraig O'Neill scored a late consolation goal as Kildare chalked up 1-2 without reply, Down comfortably held on.

Man of the Match: K McKernan (Down)

SCORERS – Down: K McKernan 1-3, E McCartan 2-0, D O'Hare 0-4 (4fs), N Madine 0-2, R Boyle, B Coulter, P Devlin (f), R Mallon 0-1 each; Kildare: J Doyle 0-5 (3fs), P O'Neill 1-0, E O'Flaherty, P Cribbin 0-2 each, A Smith, P Kelly, E Callaghan 0-1 each

DOWN – B McVeigh 7; D McCartan 7, B McArdle 6, O Costello 6; D Rooney 6, P Turley 6, R Boyle 6; K King 6, K McKernan 8; M Poland 8, P Devlin 6, K Quinn 5; D O'Hare 7, E McCartan 7, B Coulter 6. Subs: A McArdle 6 for Quinn (30), R Mallon 7 for Coulter (h-t), N Madine 7 for E McCartan (58), D Turley 6 for P Turley (64), R Kelly 6 for O'Hare (67)

KILDARE – S Connolly 6; O Lyons 7, M Foley 7, H McGrillen 7; P Cribbin 8, P Kelly 7, E Doyle 6; D Flynn 7, P O'Neill 7; W Groome 6, E Callaghan 6, E O'Flaherty 7; J Doyle 8, S Johnston 5, A Smith 6. Subs: S Hurley 7 for Flynn (42), F Dowling 6 for Johnston (47), N Kelly 7 for Callaghan (53), C McNally 6 for Groome (58), T O'Connor 6 for Smith (64).

REF – D Gough (Meath)

Irish Independent