Down’s promotions hopes in the balance

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Down’s promotions hopes in the balance thumbnailNIALL Madine gave a strong display against Meath on Saturday evening. BM6230

Meath 1-14. Down 1-11.

DESPITE staying with the pace for at least two-thirds of Saturday night's Allianz National Football League Division Two clash with Meath at Navan, Down inexplicably faded in the final furlong to lose their shape, their scoring threat ... and ultimately two promotion points.
Yet for large chunks of this match manager James McCartan wouldn't have been too displeased with his side.
There was the huge bonus of Longstone's midfield warrior Ambrose Rogers making a goal-scoring debut for the county after a long time out through injury.
Then there was play-maker Kevin McKernan who was involved in quite a few flowing moves. Full back Benny McArdle made some telling runs up the park, Saval's Niall Madine is getting more and more comfortable in a county shirt while ace marksman Donal O'Hare not only contributed with a six freekicks, but proved his ability when not scoring points with speed and a quick football brain.
Also its questionable if Down would have lost had the quick-silver Conor Laverty, a vital cog in the Down team, not been harshly black-carded after just eight minutes.
Still the Mourne men's inconsistency is a worrying trait.
Good one week - ordinary the next.
Meath thought they had opened the scoring on three minutes but Stephen Bray's goal was ruled out for over-carrying. Yet it was Down who took the lead two minutes later with an O'Hare free. And it was tit-for-tat up to 25 minutes when the scoreline read Down four points, Meath four points. Down's scores came from a fine Jerome Johnston left-footed point and a pair of O'Hare frees while Meath scored via Michael Newman, Andy Tormey (2) and Shane O'Rourke.
Then the visitors had a good spell and on the half hour mark established a three-point advantage. The powerful Niall Madine lofted over the first of these from long range with that man O'Hare also doing the business with a couple of frees.
At this stage the smart money would have been on Down to win as they were moving the ball at speed, playing some neat football and pushing Meath back.
Yet just before the break the home side reduced the gap to a single score with points from Menton and Graham Reilly.
Down began the second half smartly and might have netted on 30 seconds. McKernan picked out O'Hare down on the left touchline but keeper O'Rourke clawed away the corner forward's fisted effort.
On 37 minutes Down opened the gap a little with an excellent score. Conor Maginn lofted in a long ball, O'Hare left his man for dead to get out in front and he quickly switched the play to the inrushing Mark Poland who duly obliged by sending over the bar.
And when on 40 minutes O'Hare himself knocked over his sixth free of the match to put the Mourne men three in front, things were looking good.
The scenario was to change however. Bray and substitute Stephen Kenny pulled back a couple of points for Meath and on 49 minutes the home side took the lead for the first time since the early stages when Graham Reilly stormed through a hesitant Down rearguard to fire high into the net with Shane Harrison a virtual spectator.
Still the visitors wasted no time in hitting back. Indeed less than a minute had elapsed when Niall Madine played a one-two with the experienced Ambrose Rogers who raced through before firing past O'Rourke and into the back of the net.
Unfortunately that was as good as it would get for Down with Meath taking centre stage for the last 20 minutes. And they pointed three times before the hour, O'Carroll (2) and Reilly doing the needful.
On 61 minutes Down substitute Paul Devlin knocked over a point but Meath were not to be denied and in the last five minutes they pointed three times - from Bray (2) and O'Rourke.
And in between the Mourne men had Conor Garvey black-carded on 62 minutes with Declan Rooney replacing him.
In the final stage Down's only answer came from a Daniel McCartan point on 70 minutes. With his team four points in arrears, the corner back raced through the Meath defence and fired over. But the Burren clubman was obviously disappointed that he didn't find the back of the net.
Next Sunday Down travel to Portlaoise (3pm throw-in) to face Laois, and even if promotion is beyond them, they will still hope to end their National League campaign on a high.
Down: Shane Harrison, Daniel McCartan, Benny McArdle, Owen Costello, Ryan Boyle, Aidan Carr, Conor Garvey, Peter Turley, Kevin McKernan, Conor Laverty, Mark Poland, Conor Maginn, Donal O'Hare, Niall Madine, Ambrose Rogers with subs: Paul Devlin (for Rogers: 55 mins), Benny Coulter (for Johnston: 58 mins), Darragh O'Hanlon (for Boyle: 65 mins). Black cards: Laverty (8 mins: replaced by J Johnston, Garvey (62 mins: replaced by Declan Rooney).
Meath: P O'Rourke, D Keogan, K Reilly, C Young, S Curran, E Harrington, D Carroll, B Menton, S O'Rourke, D Tobin, A Tormey, G Reilly, D McDonagh, S Bray, M Newman with subs: D Larkin, S Kenny, P Gilsenan, D Bray and M O'Sullivan.

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