Down come undone in Donegal
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Donegal 0-12 Down 0-7
FOR THE second week in succession Down's poor second-half showing meant that they lost a game they were winning at half-time.
Their opposition may have been All-Ireland champions, Donegal on Saturday night but the fact that it took 28 minutes for Down to register a second-half score will doubtlessly concern Down boss James McCartan.
Yet, despite the disappointing defeat, Down can point to certain positive aspects of their performance, chiefly their defensive display during the first half.
Donegal's physicality, confidence and pedigree meant that they were able to unlock Down's defence in what was an energy-sapping second half.
Down made one change to the team that started against Tyrone last week with Paul McComiskey coming into the half-forward line in place of Benny Coulter.
It was a frenetic opening but Donegal registered the first score when Michael Murphy converted a free after he had been fouled but Donal O'Hare levelled on seven minutes from the dead ball.
Donegal did threaten the Down goal but Michael Cunningham kept Colm McFadden and company at bay. Ross Wherity who excelled at full-forward for Donegal did manage to put Donegal in front on 13 minutes but from that point onwards Down took charge.
Down's midfield of Kevin McKernan and Kalum King were aided by the tireless running of a lot of players - Ryan Mallon, Conor Laverty, Mark Poland and Ryan Boyle all supported those in the middle third. The team also defended superbly from the front while Damien Turley did an excellent job of curbing Mark McHugh's influence.
Scores accordingly followed for the visitors - Donal O'Hare converted two frees after Benny McArdle and Conor Laverty had been fouled close to goal.
On 27 minutes Donegal were penalised for over-carrying and McKernan opted to take the free and had no problem striking the ball from considerable distance over the bar.
Down were in the ascendency and their running, tracking and defending was reminiscent of Donegal in 2012. It was just reward when the impressive Mallon set up Donal O'Hare with an excellent pass for Down's fifth point of the night and their first from open play. With 32 minutes played Down led 0-5 to 0-2.
Down were unable to hold that three point lead and in the final few minutes of the first half Donegal pointed twice, first through McFadden and secondly through Murphy. Both efforts were free conversions. It meant that Down led 0-5 to 0-4 at the break when their endeavour during a solid first half deserved a bigger lead.
Unfortunately for the Mourne men they picked up in the second half where they had left off in the first - on the back foot. Neil Gallagher replaced Martin McElhinney at midfield for Donegal and made a huge difference to Donegal who were able to win more possession around the middle.
Donegal ramped up their intensity and the running of Rory Kavanagh, Leo McLoone and Declan Walsh had Down chasing shadows. Michael Murphy fisted the first point from close range and on 41 minutes Donegal ominously took the lead through Rory Kavanagh.
Leo McLoone and Michael Murphy added two more points so that when 10 minutes of the second half had been played Down were three points adrift of the All-Ireland champions.
Donegal appeared to get physically stronger as the game wore on whereas Down visibly tired. Ross Wherity was a revelation in the Donegal full forward line while Down struggled to maintain the defensive grip they had held during the first half.
Benny Coulter was introduced on 47 minutes in place of Connaire Harrison but not even he could stem the flow of the Donegal attack. Colm McFadden converted another free to stretch Donegal's lead to 0-9 to 0-5.
Down did have a goal-scoring opportunity on 60 minutes when Coulter set up Donal O'Hare but his goal-bound shot was heroically blocked by the Donegal defence.
It was a brief reprieve for the Down defence. Michael Murphy added another followed by a fine effort from Declan Walsh.
With a six point lead Down started chasing goals but needed more composure in front of the sticks. Eventually, Down registered a score in the second half when Dan McCartan's foray into opposition territory created space for Donal O'Hare who pointed well.
Kevin McKernan slotted another over from play seconds later but that was Down's lot for the game.
Donegal controlled the final minutes and substitute Daniel McLaughlin got the final score of the game, ensuring that Donegal could enjoy the closing stages in comfort.
Down have no points from their first two league games so will now be glad of the three week break but a home encounter with Cork is next up for the Mourne men. The challenge is on to sustain a high level of performance over the course of 70 minutes.
DOWN: Michael Cunningham, Damien Turley, Daniel McCartan, Ryan Boyle, Ryan Mallon, Aidan Carr, Brendan McArdle, Kalum King, Kevin McKernan (0-2, 1f), Keith Quinn, Mark Poland, Paul McComiskey, Conor Laverty, Connaire Harrison, Donal O'Hare (0-5, 3f) (Subs) Peter Turley for Brendan McArdle, Benny Coulter for Connaire Harrison, Declan Rooney for Ryan Mallon, Danny Savage for Damien Turley, Conor Gough for Kalum King.
DONEGAL: Paul Durcan, Ryan McHugh, Neil McGee, Eamon McGee, Declan Walsh (0-1), Leo McLoone (0-1), Anthony Thompson, Rory Kavanagh (0-1), Martin McElhinney, Mark McHugh, Michael Murphy (0-6, 4f), Ryan Bradley, Colm McFadden (0-1, 1f), Ross Wherity (0-1), Patrick McBrearty (Subs) Neil Gallagher for Martin McElhinney, Dermot Molloy for Patrick McBrearty, Daniel McLaughlin (0-1) for Colm McFadden, Odhrán MacNiallais for Neil McGee.
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