Late flurry not enough for Down
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Monaghan 1-12. Down 2-07.
DOWN exited the Ulster U21 Championship at the first hurdle despite putting in a battling performance against Monaghan on Wednesday night.
Played in Inniskeen, the Mourne men went into the game quietly confident but they failed to stamp their authority in the game despite a dream start.
In a brilliant sweeping move defender Michael Hughes started and finished an attack by blasting low into the Monaghan net.
But the cheering Down supporters had hardly time to sit back down before the sides were level as Down keeper Shane Harrison could do nothing to prevent Fergal McMahon from scoring a goal.
And Monaghan built on their momentum to tag on another two points. However, Kilcoo's Darragh O'Hanlon chipped in with frees and his club-mate and fellow county senior panellist Ryan Johnston displayed a burst of pace to surge through the Monaghan defence and he brilliantly bagged Down's second goal to give the Mourne men a 2-02 to 1-04 lead with 21 minutes played.
But despite the hard working efforts of Saval's Keelan Rice and Bosco's Conal Gallagher, Down failed to build on their lead and instead Monaghan's Chris McKenna and Thomas Kerr both scored twice to give the Farney County a three point lead at the break.
McMahon and McKenna scored early after the restart to stretch Monaghan's lead and Down seemed to be falling away as they went 22 minutes without scoring.
But with substitute Conor McGrady impressing and O'Hanlon showing steady nerve from free-kicks, the Mourne men rattled off an incredible five points in a row to level the score.
But the gallant fight-back from Down wasn't enough as in a frantic last 10-minutes it was Monaghan who tapped over two frees to secure victory.
It was a disappointing result but a useful exercise as Down continue to build for the future. Players such as Kilcoo defender Darryl Brannigan could add to Down's current senior panel, he is an excellent man-marker and has the potential to be the best in the country if not the county, while players such as Keelan Rice and Conal Gallagher will have another crack at U21 level next year, having played an additional season with their clubs Saval and St John Bosco.
Monaghan: D Kirk, R Wylie, C Boyle, D Courtney, P Keenan, J McGuigan, S Conlon, M Boyce, B Greenan, K Cromwell, C McKenna (1-4, 0-4 frees), T Kerr (0-4 all frees), M McGurk, P McKenna (0-2) and F McMahon (0-2). Subs: J Murphy for R Wylie (black card), D Ward for F McMahon, S Buckley for M Boyce, R McEnaney for S Conlon, D Freeman for M McGurk and F Malone for D Courtney.
Down: S Harrison, D Brannigan, G McGovern, A Doherty; M Hughes (1-0), C McCartan, D O'Hanlon (0-4 all frees), R Wells, J Barr, B O'Hagan (0-1), R Johnston (1-0), N McPolin, K Rice, S Dornan and C Gallagher. Subs: A Morgan for G McGovern (black card), C McGrady (0-2) for Johnston, S Murray for O'Hagan, C Quinn for Rice.
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