Down roll Lovely Leitrim over
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Down 4-18. Leitrim 0-09.
SUNDAY'S victory over Leitrim was never in doubt but what is more challenging is whether Down can learn anything from their no-contest win, ahead of the Round Two All-Ireland Qualifier clash against Kildare.
To be fair to Down they didn't take Leitrim lightly and were strong in attack, something which Kevin McKernan was keen to stress.
"You are talking all week about complacency and we can't treat Leitrim any differently than we would treat Donegal or Tyrone, so there was a big focus during the week and we lifted tempo in training but we were glad to get over the line and we hope to push on," said McKernan.
Down will not win any plaudits for what was a foreseeable one-sided game but if they discovered anything it is that they have another string in bow with rookie goalkeeper Michael Cunningham.
The Glasdrumman shot-stopper pulled off a brilliant save but it was his converted 45', which made Down the fourth Ulster team to have a goalkeeper on the score-sheet. With Brendan McVeigh in fine form Cunningham hasn't had much of a look in this season, but he proved on Sunday that he is a top keeper and a steady kicker.
There were debuts for Warrenpoint's busy Ciaran McCartan and Tullylish's Niall Donnelly and both players put in good performances, but the difficulty in playing a Division Four side is that regardless of how well you perform against them, it can be easily taken for granted.
Down star Kevin McKernan lined out at half-back and left the game was a useful exercise to try a number of players.
“A couple of young fellas got game-time. Mickey Cunningham, Ciaran McCartan and a few boys so it is good for them, should give them some confidence and increase competition for places over the next couple of weeks," said McKernan.
"Mickey came up and took his point and he has been practising all week and it is got to bring that into our armoury going forward.
“I feel that keepers that keeps out goals are more important but you seen there today - that that is the forwards job to score.
“Conor, Benny and Donal showed today how it is done so we shouldn't be relying on the goalkeeper to grab us scores."
Indeed the Down forwards were in fine form with Kilcoo's Conor Laverty grabbing and impressive 2-4 from play, with a goal in each half.
Down spread their scores through 11 players, which is a decent return regardless of opponent.
Laverty was sharp, lively and hungry for possession, while Benny Coulter, Conor Maginn, Donal O'Hare and Mark Poland, playing wide on the left, were busy throughout looking to create and take scores.
Down's versatile Kevin McKernan lined out at wing-back and he was happy to be back in action.
“It is nice just to get a jersey but it was good to play at half-back and open the legs up. We trained hard over the last couple of weeks and you could see the energy coming from the middle and half-backs and that's what you need if you are going to breakdown defences," McKernan said.
Leitrim's captain Emlyn Mulligan opened the scoring with a converted free in the second minute but Down quickly kept the scoreboard ticking over with points from Laverty, Dan Gordon, and O'Hare before Laverty grabbed his first of two goals.
The Kilcoo forward was first to react Poland's fisted effort, which hit the post, and he bundled the ball into the net, for a scrappy yet effective goal.
Down had a struck of luck with their second goal as Leitrim sweeper Kevin Conlon allowed a high Dan Gordon ball slip through his hands, where the quick thinking Laverty stole possession, passed to Coulter who laid off to Saval's Niall Madine and the big man rattled home from close range.
Poland and O'Hare had tagged on points before Madine's goal, while Maginn, O'Hare and Coulter extended Down's lead.
Leitrim did pick off points with Sean McWeeney and Mulligan finding the target and Robert Lowe should have scored a goal but for Cunningham's magnificent reflex save from point blank.
And Cunningham finished the half with a converted 45'.
Down 2-10 Leitrim 0-04.
Down manager James McCartan emptied his bench during the second half, with each player receiving loud applause from the supporters at Pairc Esler.
Conor Laverty bagged his second goal on 42 minutes, while substitute Damien Turley bagged the fourth six minutes later.
It was target practice for Down and so mild mannered that not a single card was issued and both teams finished game on 14 men as Leitrim's Darren Sweeney and Down's Liam Doyle limped off after the allotted substitutes were used.
And Down manager James McCartan was content with the performance.
“We tried out a few players to try and see if they could play at this level from the start and off the bench and basically try and increase the competition for places.
“I don't know how much we can read into that game as it will be hard to but it was good to give some guys Championship game-time, said McCartan.
“There are guys there chomping at the bit and anyone who plays well in the club championship is always looked at in Down."
With Kildare, back in Pairc Esler on Saturday (July 12), McCartan is happy with how used his squad at the weekend.
“We have won more games than we have lost (in the All-Ireland Qualifiers) and we probably have approached it a bit differently than previous Down teams - we didn't turn around and say that those 10 players aren't good enough anymore. We tried to give boys game-time today but not without losing the shape of the team," he said.
“We have been fairly loyal to the Qualifiers as a competition and we have given it our best shot and your supporters would expect nothing less."
DOWN: Michael Cunningham (0-1, 45'), Dan Gordon, Niall Donnelly, Darren O'Hagan, Conor Garvey, Ciaran McCartan, Kevin McKernan (0-1), Dan Gordan (0-1), Peter Turley, Benny Coulter (0-2), Conor Maginn (0-1), Mark Poland (0-2), Donal O'Hare (0-4, 3 frees), Niall Madine (1-0) and Conor Laverty (2-4).
Subs: Liam Doyle (0-2, frees) for O'Hare 41', Conor Toner for Turley 44', Eoin McCartan for Madine 48' Damien Turley (1-0) for Coulter 51', Owen Costello for D McCartan.
LEITRIM: Philip Farrelly, Alan Wynne, Donal Wrynn, Barry McWeeney, Barry Prior, Gary Reynolds (0-1), Sean McWeeney, Darren Sweeney, Damian Moran, Gerry Hickey, Emyln Mulligan (0-5, 4 frees), Alan McLoughlin, Kevin Conlon, Robert Lowe (0-1) and Ray Fox.
Subs: Fergal Clancy for McLouhlin ht', Michael McWeeney for Moran 48', Gavin Reynolds for Wrynn 52', Nicholas Moore (0-1) for Lowe 57', Cian Clinton for Cox 59' and Aaron Hickey for G Hickey 65'.
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