Sport Hurling

Monday 23 April 2018

Johnson's last-gasp goal grabs historic first for Mourne men

Down 3-16, Kerry 2-17

Down snatched their first Christy Ring Cup title in dramatic circumstances courtesy of an injury-time goal from Gareth 'Magic' Johnson.

Down snatched their first Christy Ring Cup title in dramatic circumstances courtesy of an injury-time goal from Gareth 'Magic' Johnson.

A point from the outstanding Padraig Boyle looked to have given Kerry their second title in three seasons but Johnson provided the finishing touch to Paul Braniff's delivery to yield a first success at this level for the Mourne men.

"When you're a point up, the clock goes very slow and when you're a point down, the clock seems to go very fast and mine was going very fast," said Down manager Gerard Monan of those closing moments.

"They never gave up which, in fairness to them, the past four or five weeks has carried us through here. Would you like to do it that way again? Obviously not.

"In the first game against Kerry, they did that to us when we were leading and they got the scores. This was due. We shot 14-odd wides ... all that shooting practice."

The game got off to a stunning start as Johnson smashed a rocket of a shot beyond ex-Cork All-Ireland winner Bernard Rochford after 81 seconds.

The giant full-forward slotted a point from the next attack.

Boyle sent a ground shot to the Down net before the third minute had elapsed however.

Kerry's Shane Nolan was magnificent in the opening period and his 16th-minute goal contributed to his 1-5 in that half, 1-3 of which came from play.

He finished with 1-9 but, significantly, had a much reduced influence in the latter period, apart from one admittedly wonderful point from play.

Crucially though, Down finished with the last four points of the half, courtesy of Braniff, Daniel Toner, James Coyle and Donal Hughes to leave it nicely poised at half-time on a score of 2-6 to 1-8.

"We thought that at half-time," reflected Monan. "We were finishing stronger and if we could get level we could push on but it took us a long time to get level."

Boyle and former Kilkenny All-Ireland victor Willie O'Dwyer helped Kerry push four points clear and they seemed the likeliest victors until Scott Nicholson's 48th-minute goal.

The substitute added two points and with Braniff slotting a couple of frees and Johnny McCusker equalising in the 66th minute, the game looked bound for extra-time until that spectacular ending.

SCORERS – Down: G Johnson 2-1, P Braniff 0-6 (4fs, 1 pen), S Nicholson 1-2,J Coyle, C Woods (1f, 1 '65') 0-2 each, D Hughes, D Toner, J McCusker 0-1 each. Kerry: S Nolan 1-9 (5fs), 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; P Braniff, K McGarry, D Toner; P Sheehan, G Johnson, J Coyle. Subs: S Nicholson for Conway (35), J McCusker for Sheehan (52), M Turley for D Toner (57), M Hughes for B Toner (64).

KERRY – B Rochford; P Costello, T Murnane, R Horgan; D O'Connell, L Boyle, D Dineen; J Griffin, D Collins; C Harty, W O'Dwyer, P Boyle; B O'Leary, A Boyle, S Nolan. Subs: J Egan for Costello (h-t), G O'Brien for Harty (h-t), S Maunsell for O'Brien (62).

REF – C Browne (Galway)

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport