SHOOTING inconsistency cost Down dearly at Pairc Esler on Sunday

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

SHOOTING inconsistency cost Down dearly at Pairc Esler on Sunday thumbnailDARREN O'Hagan loses possession against Clare in midfield at Pairc Esler on Sunday.

The Mourne men lost this fourth round Allianz National League by two points to Clare in a match that the home side largely dominated. But 15 wides and a penalty miss, told its own tale.

DOWN ...1-10
CLARE ...1-12

By contrast the visitors were much more clinical in front of the target and they had only two wides over the whole seventy plus minutes.

And in fact Clare played the final 17 minutes with 14 men after their half back Ciaran Russell was shown a red card (a yellow, followed and black) for a high tackle that felled the surging Donal O'Hare.

Yet despite Down having the majority of possession, they were never in front at any stage of the match However, Down manager Eamonn Burns was positive after the game as he said: "It was very disappointing because we did a lot of things right in terms of limiting their scoring opportunities. I think they only scored two points in the second half.

"And our shot volume was high, our tackle count was high. But at the end of the day you have to put the ball over the bar. It was disappointing in that respect. I thought we controlled the game for long periods, particularly in the second half.

But we shot too many wides." On the visitors the Down boss said: "They took some spectacular scores in the first half; I think they scored one from a side-line ball from the 21-yard line. They were value for their win at the end of the day and that puts them on level points with us (both on four) so the race starts now."

On Down's overall performance, the manager remained reasonably happy as confided: "We are doing a lot of things right, such as moving the ball well, retaining possession and we have good support play. But today, for whatever reason, we just couldn't put the ball over the bar, particularly in the second half.

"In the first half I thought we played quite well, despite starting slowly. We gave them a goal which was disappointing and we were playing catch-up but then we had a good move and got a goal ourselves that brought us back 1-4 to 1-4.

"At the end of the day when we had that much possession but were shooting wide, there's only ever going to be one solution.

"We had frees that on another day we would have put over the bar and if those frees had been just a wee bit closer we would have had victory." Clare began like the proverbial house on fire and netted after just 35 seconds, Sean O'Donoghue burst through and hit a rocket drive high into the net with keeper Marc Reid a spectator.

And two minutes later Eoin Cleary knocked over a 25-yard free to put the visitors four points in front.

Still Down responded well with Donal O'Hare taking centre stage, the quick-silver Burren man pointing three times in the same number of minutes - once from play and twice from dead balls.

Then came the Mourne men's best move of the opening half. Shay Millar and Donal O'Hare interchanged passes at lightning speed, in the process carving a hole in the Clare defence with the Glenn man pointing.

It looked then as though Down had found their feet but Clare weren't for lying down and they promptly fired over three times without reply, via David Turbidy, Owen Cleary and a mighty long distance effort from corner back Cian O'Dea.

17 minutes were gone at that stage and the home side weren't looking two pretty. However, on 18 minutes Caolan Mooney took the game by the scruff of the net, running at sizzling speed at the Clare defence before picking out the astutely positioned Donal O'Hare who gleefully drilled into the back of the Clare net from five yards.

The sides then exchanged scores with Keelan Sexton finding the target for Clare and Anthony Doherty hitting a super long-range freekick for Down.

But in the ten minutes to the break Clare established control and pointed four times without reply, these scores coming from their main man Eoin Cleary (three frees) and Kieran Malone from play.

Meanwhile Down were not finding the target and in fact hit seven wides in the opening half.

The home side, four points in arrears, began the second half positively and had an excellent opportunity to cut the gap to a point when Russell felled O'Hare with a high tackle.

A penalty and up stepped Darragh O'Hanlon but be blazed high over the bar. Still on 41 minutes a brilliant Caolan Mooney run and an excellent finish closed the gap to just a couple of points.

Down were in control but their shooting was letting them down. Too many times the ball dropped the wrong side of the posts or into the hands of the grateful keeper Killian Roche. And although the Mourne men were creating the majority of chances, it was Clare who were working the scoreboard man, Cleary and Eoghan Collins finding the target.

But with 17 minutes left the visitors were reduced to 14 men when Russell incurred the wrath of referee James Malloy after he unceremoniously chopped down Donal O'Hare. Already on a yellow, Malloy flashed a black and then a red so Russell had to walk.

A great chance for Down but in those 17 minutes plus at least another five in time-added-on the home side were only able to point three more times- from an O'Hare free (on 55), a long-range effort from substitute Aaron Morgan (57) and a Docherty free on 74 minutes.

In the end Clare won the league points, and perhaps deservingly so, for their so-accurate shooting.

Meanwhile it's back to the drawing board for Down. Next week the Mourne men travel to Kingspan, Breffni to take on the formidable Division Two leaders with Eamonn Burns saying: "We have got to go to Cavan next Saturday night and put in a performance. And hopefully if we can increase our shot percentage, we'll be in with a good chance of winning the game. It's going to be a tough task.

They 're going well and are at the top of the division and they are playing at home so we know we have to go down there and improve in a whole lot of areas.

"Connaire Harrison is available but I don't think the problem is inside. I think it's just our shot selection and our execution from dead balls that cost us a result.

"We have three games left and we got to get two wins out of that three. We'll take one at a time and obviously Cavan's the next one up. We'll have a wee look at things and see where we are.

We are going to try and focus hard and try and get something out of Cavan." Burns finished by saying: "It's consistency we want and consistency breeds confidence. We've got to get a couple of wins back to back and try and push on."

DOWN: Mark Reid, Colm Flanagan, Benny McArdle, Anthony Doherty (0-2), Darren O'Hagan, Niall McParland, Caolan Mooney (0-1), David McKibben, Niall Donnelly, Darragh O'Hanlon (0-1), Conor Maginn, Shay Millar (0-1), Barry O'Hagan, Donal O'Hare (1-04), Ryan Johnston.

Subs: Kevin McKernan for McKibben: black card (48), Conor Poland for Maginn (48), Aaron Morgan (0-1) for Johnston (48) and Ruairi Wells for O'Hanlon (62) and Sean Dornan for B O'Hagan (69).

CLARE: Killian Roche, Cian O'Dea (0-1), Cillian Brennan, Eoghan Collins (0-1), Ciaran Russell, Aaron Fitzgerald, Pearse Lillis, Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor, Kieran Malone (0-1), Eoin Cleary (0-7), Gearoid O'Brien, Sean O'Donoghue (1-0), Keelan Sexton (0-1), David Turbridy (0-1).

Subs: Alan Sweeney (for O'Brien (46), Darragh Bohannon for Malone (73) and Eimhin Courtney for Sexton (73).


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