Down flop against Fermanagh

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

DOWN manager Eamonn Burns said that missed goal chances in the opening half proved costly as his side slumped to a nine-point defeat to Pete McGrath's Fermanagh.

Down ...0-10
Fermanagh ...1-16

The Mourne men had chances to hit the net on at least three occasions but crucially failed to do so, and although it is easy to be doom and gloom in Down these days there were encouraging signs on Saturday night.

“I think we had three goal chances in the first half, definitely two were snatched and I spoke to the guys at half-time and you can understand that the goal appeared in front of them and they went for it," said Burns.

“Probably the more mature option would have been to fist it over the bar. One where Alan Davidson went through we definitely should have got a score out of it."

On his National League debut, Alan Davidson is an outstanding forward and he will continue to get better. His work rate was phenomenal and when he bags his first goal he will be difficult to stop.

Gerard McGovern was excellent again and kept Seamus Quigley to a point, while Warrenpoint's Ryan McAleenan kept Fermanagh's lively Tomas Corrigan to only a point from play.

Overall Fermanagh are a team on a different trajectory than Down. Having won back-to-back promotions Pete McGrath has his team oiled and ready to push for promotion, whereas the Mourne men are in the first stages of building a team.

It won't happen overnight but failure to win in Ennis on Sunday could see Down in an early relegation battle.

And Down manager Eamonn Burns understandably wasn't happy with the performance of his players.

“We approached the game thinking we had a very good opportunity of winning it," said Burns.

“It is a wee bit disappointing with the margin of the defeat. I thought for maybe 45 minutes we were in the game. But after that Fermanagh held the ball and used it very intelligently and they got the win.

“Fermanagh put a wee bit of pressure on and our kick outs didn't go to plan and they got a goal at a crucial time, which gave them breathing space."

Down got off to an ideal start with Alan Davidson converting an opening minute free after Mickey Jones fouled Barry O'Hagan but they were forced to wait another 14 minutes before adding to their tally as Fermanagh took control.

The Erne men took advantage of Down's decision to use a sweeper. Despite opting to play Conaill McGovern as an extra defender Down failed to assign anyone to mark Eoin McManus and they paid the price in the opening quarter.

Fermanagh were level seven minutes after Tomas Corrigan grabbed his first conversion of the evening and a minute later he added another.

Fermanagh were mopping up around the middle and with McManus free to run at the Down defence they capitalised. Corrigan converted his third free by the tenth minute and Eddie Courtney added the first from play as Down struggled to come to terms with Fermanagh's slick passing.

The flip side of Conaill McGovern's roaming role was clear when the Burren man confidently stroked over a Down's second point.

Having initially defended deep and invite Fermanagh onto them the Mourne men adapted their tactics and pressed high. Shay Millar tapped over a third point for Down and by 25 minutes the sides were level following Davidson's converted 45'.

A converted free from Davidson put the Down men in front but Quigley replied with a spectacular long-range effort and another Corrigan free gave the Erne men a one-point lead at the break.

Fermanagh upped the tempo in the second half, their movement was excellent and they looked purposeful going forward and they increased their lead to six points before Down flirted with a comeback.

Davidson struck his fourth point of the evening, substitute Kevin McKernan clipped over a point before being forced off with an eye injury and Ballyholland's Joe Murphy fired over a wonderful long-range effort.

Fermanagh's lead was cut down to only three points but that was the end of Down's fight back as Eion McManus' goal on 53 minutes put the game to bed.

The Erne County were comfortable in possession and kept chipping away with scores, whereas Down faded badly and awaited the final whistle.

Down won't meet many better teams than Fermanagh this season and when the League campaign is over this result can perhaps be put in better perspective. Although much of that will depend on a tough game away to Clare on Sunday. And at this stage a point would be progress.

“It is important we get something out of our visit to Clare," said Burns.

“A win will give us a wee bit more confidence and tonight we had six débutantes, which was an awful lot to ask.

“But those boys were very good in the run in to this game in the McKenna Cup and they deserved their chance. I thought most of them played quite well and some of them just ran out of steam because they worked hard. We are happy with the lads we brought in but six can be a big ask to start a game like that."

DOWN: M Cunningham, R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O'Hagan, D McKeever, C McGovern (0-01), B McArdle, A Carr (0-01), J Flynn, J Murphy (0-01), C Magee, S Millar (0-01), A Davidson (0-05, 2f, 1 '45), P Havern, B O'Hagan.

Subs: C Mooney for McArdle (h-t), K McKernan (0-01) for McKeever (42), R Johnston for Millar (44), C Maginn for Murphy (62), P Turley for Flynn (62), T McCaffrey for Corrigan (76).

FERMANAGH: T Treacy, M Jones, C Cullen, C McManus, D McCusker, R McCluskey, A Breen (0-02), E Donnelly, L Cullen, B Mulrone (0-01), E McManus (1-00), P McCusker (0-01), E Courtney (0-01), S Quigley (0-01), T Corrigan (0-08, 7f).

Subs: C Beacom (0-01) for Courtney (57), J McMahon for McCluskey (64), D Keenan for E McManus (64), P Reihill for P McCusker (72), R Lyons (0-01) for Quigley (74).

Referee: F Kelly (Longford).


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