Super Sub Slattery scores twice to extend Kildare's lead at the top of Division 2
David Slattery came off the bench to bag two goals and send Kildare three points clear at the top of Division 2.
Down 0-10 Kildare 2-9
Slattery, introduced at half-time, netted with his first contribution in the 37th minute and struck again 20 minutes from time, as Kildare took a giant step towards promotion.
This was a setback for Down, who could have moved into the promotion frame themselves, but after using all six subs, the home side finished with 13 players when defender Darren O’Hagan went off injured and sub Jerome Johnston was black-carded.
In truth, Kildare were the better outfit as Down, despite a couple of fine points from Coalan Mooney, were outclassed in the second half.
Kildare had midfielder Kevin Feely in good free-taking form and the decision to bring on Slattery for Cathal McNally was a masterstroke on manager Cian O’Neill’s behalf.
Kildare arrived to Newry knowing they had a chance to strengthen their grip on Division 2.
The Lilywhites began the evening on six points, one clear of chasers Galway and Clare, with the chance to put some daylight between themselves and the rest.
A win for Down would take them level with Kildare at the head of affairs – but they’re now looking over their shoulders again.
On a damp, drizzly evening, Kildare operated with the breeze in the first half but the quality of fare from both sides was average at best.
Kildare led by a point at the break, 0-4 to 0-3, but the sides managed just three points from play between them – and two of those came from Down full-forward Barry O’Hagan.
He looked sharp early on but the service dried up as the half wore on, with O’Hagan cutting an increasingly isolated figure inside.
He was often the only Down man inside the Kildare 45m line, as the Lilywhites defended in numbers and looked to counter-attack.
The problem from a neutral perspective was that tactic was also favoured by Down, ensuring a real war of attrition.
There were some bright moments, O’Hagan’s two points well finished, and Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan excelled early on, keeping out Ryan Johnston’s close-range effort before converting a ’45 for his side’s opening score.
With less than 18 minutes on the watch, Tommy Moolick pointed from distance to level the game at 0-2 each, before a brace of Feely frees gave Kildare some breathing space.
But Darragh O’Hanlon would have the final say of the half for Down – converting a close-range free to keep the Mourne men very much in touch at the break.
Kildare, however, had a big second half performance in them as Feely opened the scoring with a free, followed by a well-worked goal.
Daniel Flynn and Feely combined to set up Slattery, who finished low into the bottom corner.
The impish forward was at it again in the 50th minute, collecting Niall Kelly’s defence-splitting handpass before slotting a low shot past Michael Cunningham.
The game ended in disappointing fashion, with a series of melees breaking out as referee Niall Cullen played over nine minutes of stoppage time at the end.
Scorers for Down: D O’Hanlon 0-4f, C Mooney & B O’Hagan 0-2 each, K McKernan & J Johnston 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: D Slattery 2-0, K Feely 0-5f, M Donnellan (45), O Lyons, P Cribbin & T Moolick 0-1 each.
Down – M Cunningham; R McAleenan, B McArdle, D O’Hagan; D O’Hanlon, C McGovern, C Mooney; A Carr, P Turley; K McKernan, C Maginn, J Murphy; S Millar, B O’Hagan, R Johnston.
Subs: A Davidson for Johnston (55), N Donnelly for Carr (57), J Johnston for Davidson (b/c 63), M Poland for Maginn (66), S Dornan for Millar (69), C Magee for Turley (69).
Kildare: M Donnellan; M O’Grady, D Hyland, O Lyons; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribbin; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, P Cribbin; C McNally, D Flynn, C Hartley.
Subs: D Slattery for McNally (h.t.), F Dowling for Hartley (54), É Callaghan for Slattery (65), E Heavey for Moolick (68), S Ryan for Conway (70), L Healy for Doyle (70+5).
Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).