Friday 15 December 2017

Johnson magic stuns Kingdom

Down 3-16 Kerry 2-17 Christy Ring Cup final

Gareth 'Magic' Johnson conjured up the most dramatic of finishes at Croke Park as Down won this competition for the first time.

Johnson grabbed a stoppage-time goal to stun the Kingdom and make it third-time lucky for the Mourne men, who had lost the deciders of 2005 and 2009.

It was a climax befitting a game that took many twists and turns before swinging in the unlikely direction of a Down side that had been chasing for much of the contest.

The game started in explosive fashion with two goals inside the first three minutes.

First up was Down's veteran full-forward Johnson, who smashed home the opener, but almost immediately Kerry's Padraig Boyle had the ball in the net at the other end, finishing from a tight angle to launch his side's challenge.

The Munster men held an edge throughout the opening quarter, with Shane Nolan showcasing his exceptional finishing talents, sprinting through for a superb point moments before grabbing his side's second goal.

The Boyle brothers, Padraig and Aidan, combined in the build-up, the latter providing the neat flick which Nolan collected before blasting past Stephen Keith.

Johnson came close to grabbing a spectacular second, but his first-time effort flashed just wide, and a further Down goal chance was spurned when Paul Braniff drove a penalty over the bar.

Nolan's 1-5 haul had Kerry in control, but their interval lead was cut to a single point after Donal Hughes and James Coyle clipped over points.

The Kingdom held their focus to push on with points from Brendan O'Leary, Willie O'Dwyer and Nolan, but they conceded a second goal on 48 minutes.

Another Braniff penalty was superbly saved by Bernard Rochford, but sub Scott Nicholson followed up to net from close range. Kerry full-back Liam Boyle had to be at his best as Down piled on the pressure.

Kerry had a couple of late chances, but Nolan and John Egan were both wide, before Padraig Boyle punished a defensive error for what appeared to be the winner.

But there was still time left for Braniff to drive in the killer delivery that the towering Johnson flicked to the net for a sensational clinching goal.

Scorers – Down: G Johnson 2-1, S Nicholson 1-2, P Braniff 0-6 (4f, 1 pen), J Coyle, C Woods (1f, 1 '65') 0-2 each, D Hughes, D Toner, J McCusker 0-1 each.

Kerry: S Nolan 1-9 (0-5f), P Boyle 1-3, W O'Dwyer 0-2, B O'Leary, A Boyle, G O'Brien 0-1 each.

Down: S Keith; M Conlon, P Hughes, B Toner; F Conway, C Woods, M Ennis; D Hughes, C Coulter; D Toner, P Braniff, P Sheehan; K McGarry, G Johnson, J Coyle. Subs: S Nicholson for Conway, J McCusker for Sheehan, M Turley for Toner, M Hughes for B Toner.

Kerry: B Rochford; R Horgan, L Boyle, P Costello; D O'Connell, T Murnane, D Dineen; J Griffin, D Collins; B O'Leary, W O'Dwyer, C Harty; P Boyle, A Boyle, S Nolan. Subs: J Egan for Costello, G O'Brien for Harty, S Mansell for O'Brien.

Referee: C Browne (Galway)

Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport