Down off to winner
Tuesday, 10 January 2017
DOWN manager Eamonn Burns was content with Sunday's Dr McKenna Cup win over James McCartan's Queen's.
Played in Downpatrick at an almost pedestrian pace, there was little to get worked up or excited about but Down did have a few pleasing performances and already they have equaled last years win total.
They will expect a tougher test against Derry on Sunday, but there was certainly enough to warrant cautious optimism especially with performances from Alan Davidson and Mayobridge's Man of the Match Cathal Magee.
In defence Warrenpoint's Ryan McAleenan, making his debut, impressed while there was plenty of Down men playing for Queen's, ten in the squad, with Donal McKeever bagging the goal for the University.
Queen's failed to impress but Down's wayward shooting almost proved costly as substitute Sean Fox would have struck an equalising late goal but for an outstanding save from Warrenpoint's Gary McMahon, who tipped the shot over the bar.
Overall though Burns was happy enough to start the season with a win.
“A lot of positives there today and a lot of work still to be done but a win is a win and it looked very comfortable. But then Queen's came at us and made a few good moves and grabbed a goal, which tightened the whole thing up but we saw the game out, which we are happy with," said Burns.
“There was quite a few debutants out there today and I thought Cathal Magee and Shay Millar showed up very well in the half forward line and Ryan McAleenan and Gary McMahon played very well so it was positive. We have players coming back from niggly injuries and back from holidays.
“We were happy with how we defended, the goal obviously doesn't impress us but we hit the targets we were aiming to hit and they worked hard in defence."
Magee's converted free in the fourth minute got Down's season underway and to be fair once in front they always looked comfortable.
The Downpatrick pitch was heavy, which didn't help for a showcase but it was clear Sunday's game was six months from Championship pace.
Alan Davidson slotted over an excellent point before Downpatrick's Conor O'Grady replied with Queens opening score.
Ballyholland's Joe Murphy was black carded with only 12 minutes gone but his replacement Warrenpoint's Ryan Mellon linked up well with Aidan Carr to set up Davidson who swung over his second point.
The Bredagh man struck his third point on 19 minutes after good approach play from Caolan Mooney before Marty Clarke relied with a free. A fine score from Donegal's Martin Reilly narrowed the gap but after a rally of wides between both sides Clonduff's Barry O'Hagan restored Down's two point lead.
O'Grady's free left a point between the sides but Down started to step up in gear and Barry O'Hagan was denied a point after a brilliant full stretch block from Crossmaglen's Aiden Rushe but after the impressive Davidson was pulled down in the square, he steadied himself and used all his Irish League experience to tuck his spot kick neatly inside his bottom left corner of the net.
Down led 1-05 to 0-04 at the break and Queen's made a number of changes with Conor Francis and Ruairi Campbell replacing Kilcoo's Aaron Morgan and Jack Dowling.
Like the first period, Magee got the half off to a scoring start and Danny Savage, who was given a tough time by Belleek's Fearghus Quinn, converted a free.
On 44 minutes Ryan Mellon became the first Down player to make a mark, which was neither advantageous or a hindrance. Both teams emptied the benches and the second half was quite flat but Magee extended Down's lead with two further points.
Two Down men, Clarke and Francis replied with points for Queen's, which left six points between the teams and 15 minutes to play.
But then came McKeever's goal and all of a sudden the game looked to turn in the University's favour. Alan Davidson and Martin O'Reilly traded points before Morgan's magnificent save but a point from the hard working Johnny Flynn ensured victory went Down's way. And the Down boss is expecting a tougher test in Pairc Esler.
“We will pick the bones of this one and get ready for Derry on Sunday," said Burns.
“I haven't looked too closely at Derry, but I know Damian Barton very well and I am sure he will have his men well organised for next week."
DOWN: Gary McMahon, Ryan McAleenan, Gerard McGovern, Darren O'Hagan, David McKibbon, Conaill McGovern, Caolan Mooney, Aidan Carr, Jonathan Flynn, Joe Murphy, Cathal Magee (0-4, 2f), Shay Millar, Alan Davidson (0-4), Barry O'Hagan (0-1) Danny Savage (0-1, f).
Subs: Ryan Mellon for Murphy (black card, 12'), Pat Havern for Savage (44'), Benny McArdle for Mooney (49'), Conor Maginn for Millar (51), Peter Turley for Aidan Carr (64'), Damian Turley for Barry O'Hagan (64').
QUEEN'S: Callum Young, Niall Keenan, Anthony Doherty, Fearghus Quinn, Shea Heffron, James McMahon, Donal McKeever (1-0), Ciaran McCartan, Jack Dowling, Aidan Rushe, Marty Clarke (0-2, frees) Aaron Morgan, Martin O'Reilly (0-2), Conor McGrady (0-2, 1f), Ciaran Harney.
Subs: Ruairi Campbell for Morgan (ht'), Conor Francis (0-1) for Dowling, Aaron McClements for McGrady (51'), Sean Fox (0-1) for Heaney (62'), Aidan Fegan for O'Reilly (64').
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