Deadly Down off to flier
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Down 5-14. Westmeath 0-05.
DOWN got their All-Ireland title bid off to a dream start with a convincing win over a battling Westmeath on Sunday.
The All-Ireland Series begins in group stages where Down are placed in the same group as rivals Armagh, Roscommon, Laois, Dublin and of course Westmeath.
Played in Castlewellan Down put in excellent performance and while the score-line indicates a rampant victory, the Mourne girls were forced to work hard for the result as Westmeath never gave up and forced brilliant defending from Down.
And it was actually Westmeath that took the lead as Ellen Tate struck over from 40-metres within 30 seconds.
Down's Aoife Keown, who lined out at midfield replied with a fine point before Niamh Mallon's converted free edged the Mourne women ahead.
But their was no signal that Down were going to get it easy as with 11 minutes played Westmeath were back in front, following points from Dinah Loughlin (free) and Mairead McCormack.
Westmeath threatened to add to their tally but it was another 40 minutes before their next score as Down's defenders were excellent. Ballyholland's Karen Tinnelly was immense. She cut out numerous Westmeath attacks, anticipated dangerous passes and cleared a shot off the goal-line. Lisa McAliskey was busy throughout too and in the first half denied Westmeath a goal after blocking Mairead McCormack's strike, while Jenny Fowler and Karen McMullan provided a solid defence as well as an aggressive attacking outlet.
Down eventually seized the initiative on 12 minutes when Fionnuala Carr drove through the middle and struck confidently between the sticks.
Keown fired her second point over the bar after a clever pass from Tinnelly and Sara Louise Carr drilled in Down's first goal after young Mallon out-jumped her taller marker to win a high ball and distribute the pass.
Clonduff's Paula Gribben was her usual influential lively self and she won possession to set up McMullan's point and Mallon battled through three defenders to notch a score before tagging on a converted free to give Down a 1-09 to 0-03 lead on 27-minutes.
But just before half-time Fionnuala Carr had the crowd on their feet when Mallon collected a long McGourty pass into the corner. Carr raced down the sideline and from the same range as Joe Canning's equalising point for Galway hurlers on Sunday, she somehow squeezed her shot between the posts.
The game was over within a minute of the second half as Catherine McGourty bagged a goal on 20 seconds. Substitute Colleen Clarke and Mallon tagged on points before Nicola Branniff struck Down's third goal to give them a commanding 3-11 to 0-03 lead with 39 minutes played.
The result wasn't in doubt, but McGourty scored from distance, Mallon increased her tally to 0-5 and Aimee McAleenan and Fionnuala Carr rattled the Westmeath net to display a ruthless streak.
To their credit Westmeath never gave up and Mairead McCormack and Denise McGrath picked off points but the day belonged Down who face a sterner challenge against Roscommon on Sunday (June 29) at 2.30pm.
DOWN: Maria McNally, Karen Tinnelly, Ciara McGovern, Jenny Fowler, Catherine Rocks, Lisa NcAliskey, Karen McMullan, Paula Gribben, Aoife Keown, Catherine McGourty (1-4, 2 frees) Fionnuala Carr (1-2), Aimee McAleenan (1-0), Sara Louise Carr (1-0), Niamh Mallon captain (0-5, 1 free) and Nicola Branniff (1-0).
Subs used: Brid McGourty, Colleen Clarke (0-1) and Lisa McPolin.
WESTMEATH: Fiona Keating, Eileen Murphy, Edel McCormack, Laura Hannon, Sarah King, Pamela Greville, Aisling Conaty, Mairead McCormack (0-2, 1 free), Ellen Tate (0-1), Laura Thompson, Joanne McCormack, Muireann Scally, Caitriona Murtagh, Denise Murtagh (0-1, free) and Dinah Loughlin (0-1, free).
Subs used: Caoimhe McCrossan, Aisling Boyhan, Jemma Egan Maybury and Roisin Scally.
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