Flat Down popped by Cork as Rossies await

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Flat Down popped by Cork as Rossies await thumbnailDOWN'S David McKibben and Anthony Doherty race for the ball on Sunday at Pairc Esler against Cork.

CROWDS streaming out of Pairc Esler with more than seven or eight minutes left to play summed up Down's National League encounter with Cork on Sunday.

DOWN ...0-10
CORK ...1-12

In truth the Mourne men were poor. Cork were the better team and deserved their six-point winning margin. Yes Down did play well at times - but only in short spells and in fact during the normal 35 minutes of the second half they kicked only two points while in contrast in that same spell Cork racked up a goal and six points.

Another minus point in the match was that with just seconds left of time-added-on the referee Fergal Kelly red-carded star full forward Connaire Harrison for an incident that few in the ground saw.

In effect that sending off means that Harrison is unlikely to play next week against Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park.

There were positives though. Darren O'Hagan had a fine game, Darragh O'Hanlon and skipper Niall McParland grafted hard, Colm Flanagan seems to be improving with every game while there were flashes of class from Caolan Mooney.

But overall the men in red and black were not nearly consistent enough.

Speaking to the press afterwards manager Eamonn Burns said: "The result was disappointing but there's always positives to take from any game. I thought we were in the game at half-time although we maybe didn't take all the chances that were presented to us.

I thought we contained Cork reasonably well as they are a big strong physical team.

We had a good start to the second half and we got ourselves back level and we dominated for a ten or 12-minute period. But then in the space of about four minutes Cork got a goal and two points that effectively finished the game.

"It gave them a five-point gap and we were struggling to see how we were going to claw those five points back. At times they employed two sweepers. They had obviously looked at their performance from the week previously and got their defence closed up.

"We found it difficult at times to get the ball into the inside men. And that limited the amount of scores we could get. With two sweepers they were very difficult to break down and we weren't coming at enough pace out of defence to open them up," said the Down boss.

Cork began best and after 13 minutes were 5-1 in front. Colm O'Neill opened the scoring for the visitors in the first minute but Connaire Harrison, following a short pass from Conor Maginn, levelled for the Mourne men on four minutes.

However, in the next ten minutes Cork dominated and they added four points without reply.

Sean White pointed twice in a minute from play with Colm O'Neill and Mark Collins adding to the visitor's tally with freekicks.

Still midway through the half Down began to get a foothold into the match and they scored three unanswered points. Wing half Anthony Doherty got two of these from frees, each time cutting across the ball and scoring with the outside of his boot. While Darragh O'Hanlon also pointed from a short range free.

In the 15 minutes before the break both sides had their moments and both pointed twice. Mark Collins grabbed the Cork scores while Doherty and O'Hanlon did the business at the other end, again from free-kicks.

At the break just a single point separated the sides with the visitors holding a 0-7 to 0-6 advantage.

Still six minutes after the resumption Down squared matters when Shay Millar latched onto a Mooney pass before splitting the posts with a fine effort from way out on the right flank.

Were Down on the comeback trail? Unfortunately, the answer was no. Neither side troubled the scoreboard for ages and although the home side did have scoring opportunities, they kept dropping the ball into the Cork keepers' hands.

But it was the visitors who made the break-through. On 51 minutes the excellent Mark Collins pointed twice in the space of sixty seconds. Caolan Mooney pulled one back with a cracking score from all of 45 metres although Colm O'Neill erased that score with one at the other end on 55 minutes.

And straight from the kick-out Cork rammed home their superiority when after a poor Shane Harrison kick-out, Ruairi Deane won possession before playing in the lethal Collins who coolly lobbed the ball over the advancing Harrison and into the back of the net. Five points the difference. Game over.

And in the next ten minutes Cork added to their tally with points from Collins, Peter Kelleher and O'Neill.

And it was only in time-added-on that Down were able to reduce the Cork advantage when substitutes Ryan Johnston and Kevin McKernan each pointed.

On Sunday, Down take on Roscommon in their third National League match and after that Cork defeat, the men from the Mournes know a win is needed to get the team back on track.

Manager Burns too knows the importance of the game as he said: "We have to go to Dr Hyde Park and roll our sleeves up." On players coming returning to the side Burns said: "Darren (O'Hagan) played the full game today and played hard. But he would probably be the first one to tell you he needs his fitness levels up a bit. Ryan (Johnston) came on and got ten minutes and played reasonably well.

"Yes we're trying to get boys back and into contention. We worked hard over the summer trying to strengthen the squad and when you have a squad where people are coming off the benches, that creates its own problems because everybody wants to play. Still it's a good problem to have." Burns continued: "I thought Colm Flanagan played very well and he played well last week too.

Also he had a good McKenna Cup campaign. If he keeps making progress hopefully he'll release Darren (O'Hagan) to play a wee bit further out the field. Yes we're pleased with Colm's progress."

On Anthony Doherty's free-taking Burns said: "I thought he was very, very good today and last week as well. He has got his shooting boots on in dead ball situations." Eamon Burns concluded: "We 'll have to look at our line-up for next week. Probably Connaire won't be available so that gives somebody else the opportunity to play in the full forward line."

On that red card, that also saw Cork's Jamie O'Sullivan walking, the manager quipped: "As Mourinho would say, I didn't see it and I don't know what went on."

DOWN: Shane Harrison, Colm Flanagan, Darren O'Hagan, Benny McArdle, Darragh O'Hanlon (0-2, both frees), Niall McParland, Anthony Doherty (0-3, all frees), Conor Poland, Niall Donnelly, Shay Millar, Conor Maginn, Caolan Mooney (0-1), Conor Maginn, Shay Millar (0-1), Donal O'Hare, Connaire Harrison (0-1), Aaron Morgan.

Subs: Kevin McKernan (0-1) for Maginn (50), Barry O'Hagan for O'Hare (50), David McKibben for Doherty (56), Ryan Johnston for (0-1) Millar (57).

CORK: Mark White, Sam Ryan, Jamie O'Sullivan, Michael McSweeney, Kevin Fahive, Brian O'Driscoll, Tomas Clancy, Ian Maguire, Cillian O'Hanlon, Sean White (0-2), Kevin Crowley, Ruairi Deane, John O'Rourke, Colm O'Neill (0-5, 4f), Mark Collins (1-5, 2f).

Subs: Michael Hurley for O'Rourke (44), Peter Kelleher (0-1) for O'Hanlon (60), Matthew Taylor for White (63), Cian Dorgan for Flahive (67), Stephen Sherlock for O'Neill (68).


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