Friday 15 December 2017

Nightmare continues for Down as Dublin continue unbeaten run

Down 1-7 Dublin 1-15

Cormac Costello, Dublin, in action against Gerard Collins, Down. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Round 5, Down v Dublin. Páirc Esler, Newry, Co. Down. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Cormac Costello, Dublin, in action against Gerard Collins, Down. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Round 5, Down v Dublin. Páirc Esler, Newry, Co. Down. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrick

HARD to believe that four seasons ago Dublin, then the defending All-Ireland title holders, were comfortably beaten by Down in a Division 1 league tie in Newry. And just for good measure Down ultimately finished third in the table, two places ahead of Dublin.

Down's football world have been turned on its head in the interim; this latest defeat leaves them clinging to their new found Division 1 status by a thread. They have had a truly nightmarish season as evident by the fact that their scoring difference is now minus 52.

In fairness they showed commendable courage last night and, indeed, hit the woodwork twice in the closing minutes. This wasn't a vintage Dublin performance but they still won comfortably without having to hit top gear but apart from Diarmuid Connolly all their starting forwards scored from play.

The home side were seeking their first win over an inter county team since beating Laois in the last round of last season's Division 2 campaign. Predictably they pulled 13 men behind the ball once they lost surrendered possession.

But they received an unexpected bonus after just five minutes when Dublin goalkeeper, Stephen Cluxton allowed a speculative shot from recalled full forward Donal O'Hare slip through his hands and into the net.

Remarkably it was the first goal Down scored in the competition. But their fans were still celebrating the goal when they lost their most experienced player Kevin McKernan after a harsh black card.

Still, the Down deservingly led 1-2 to 0-1 after ten minutes as they played with a surprisingly level of confidence. Ultimately they couldn't maintain their early dominance, however, and helped by a takeover at midfield Dublin poured forward.

Three unanswered points from Cormac Costello (f), Paul Flynn and Ciaran Kilkenny were  followed by a slightly fortunate 18th minute goal. Kevin Manamon's shot was blocked but the rebound fell kindly to the unmarked Costello who found the net from close range.

Down won only a handful of their own kick outs in the second quarter and they weren't helped by the reluctance of the referee to favour them in any of the 50/50 decision. But the visitors were in control kicking another four points to lead at the break by six points (1-8; 1-3) despite hitting six wides.

The poverty of the Down effort was underlined by the fact that Donal O'Hare's 35th minute free was their first score in 27 minutes; they kicked five wides while Cluxton safely fielded two more long range efforts.

There was no significant changes in the pattern of the contest in the third quarter. Dublin monopolized possession and threw the ball around with confidence. They increased their lead to seven points before losing Paul Flynn with a black card.

Down though had a real let-off in the 44th minute when a defensive blunder let in Kevin McManamon but his shot was brilliantly parried by Down goalkeeper Michael Cunningham though McManamon tapped the rebound over the bar.

Dublin replaced their midfield but it was Down who started to gain some traction kicking two points on the spin to cut the deficit to four points with 17 minutes remaining. The visitors responded with three unanswered points of their own as both sides emptied their benches and the game became somewhat ragged.

It might have been an interesting finish had a thundering shot from Paul Devlin been a couple of inches lower six minutes from the end – it crashed against the cross bar and amazingly Dublin had another lucky escape three minutes from the end when excellent work by substitute Henry Brown enabled full back Gerard McGovern to get through but his goal bound shot save came back off the post.

The official attendance was 5,500.


Down: M Cunningham; G Collins, G McGovern, D O'Hagan, J Flynn, A Carr, D O'Hanlon (0-1); P Turley, M McKay (0-1); C Maginn, R Mallon, K McKernan; C McGovern, D O'Hare (1-2, 2f), B O'Hagan. Subs: J Murphy (0-2) for McKernan (BC) 6m; P Devlin (0-1) for Mallon 47m; L Howard for Carr 52m; C Harrison for O'Hagan 52m; H Brown for McKay 58m


Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, M Fitzsimons, D Byrne (Naomh Olaf); J McCarthy, J Small, J Cooper (0-1); B Fenton, S Carthy; P Flynn (0-2), D Connolly, C Kilkenny (0-2); C Costello, (1-4, 4f) K McManamon (0-2), D Rock (0-3, 1 45, 1f). Subs: S B Carthy or Flynn (BC) 44m; P Andrews (0-1) for McManamon 46m; E Lowndes for Carthy (Naomh Mearnog) 46m; D Bastisk for Fenton 52m, T Brady for Costello 56m; D Daly for Cooper 64m


Referee: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary)

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