Thursday, May 30, 2024
SportDown's fate sealed in Cork

Down’s fate sealed in Cork

With a game still to play, Down’s fate has been sealed and, as a disappointing NFL campaign draws to a close this week against Clare, the result of that game will carry no weight for the Mournemen who are already bound for Division Three next year. Though the performance in Cork was one of the more promising displays this season, the reality of relegation which accompanied this four point defeat meant it was a long, long trip home for the Down team and the supporters who travelled to the Rebel County. Reflecting on slipping out of Division Two, James McCartan was understandably somewhat deflated at the end of the match but acknowledged that had certain breaks gone Down’s way they could have had a few more points on the board rather than the solitary one gained at Meath. He said “The league (table) doesn’t lie and it is a reflection of where we are. We still felt we left points behind us throughout the course of the league, probably one against Meath and two against Offaly, and we battled hard enough to get something out of today’s game but just in the last 10 minutes it slipped away.” Defensively, the concession of 1-16 will also be of concern to Down going forward. A team that has averaged a total of 11 points per game in their league fixtures so far simply can’t be conceding totals such as that and hope to retain realistic ambitions of winning a match. TENTATIVE Understandably, the first half began in a tentative fashion and nerves were evidently present in both sets of players. Neither side was able to establish any kind of a cushion on the scoreboard until Stephen Sherlock’s 27th minute goal boosted Cork to a four point advantage. The home side had opened the scoring through Cathal O’Mahony but Cory Quinn replied within a minute. Sherlock, Cork’s go to man throughout, traded pointed frees with Andrew Gilmore before Darren O’Hagan edged Down ahead for the first and only time in the game after 11 minutes, 0-3 to 0-2. O’Mahony and John O’Rourke split the uprights for the home side but matters were level again when Pat Havern pointed an advanced mark. Sherlock got another point before his goal and between that and half time the only other score was another point from Havern for Down. In the last minutes of the half Down were forced into changes as Tiarnan Rushe replaced Cory Quinn and Gary McMahon came on in goals for Rory Burns. RADAR Cork got off to the better start in the second half as they registered three of the opening four scores. Sherlock (2) and Colm O’Callaghan had their radar in tune while Down’s response came from a Darren O’Hagan point. Down were without Darren’s brother, sharpshooter Barry, who had to travel back up the road at late notice, and also Caolan Mooney who, James McCartan revealed after the match, suffered a calf injury in midweek. Ceilum Doherty and Pat Havern took a point apiece to bring it back to a three point game but Cathal O’Mahony ensured Cork retained an additional buffer with the next score. That four point cushion was to prove vital as Down hit back at the other end with a goal, well finished from close range by Tiarnan Rushe. This could have been a catalyst for Down to spring back into the contest but misses in front of goal proved particularly costly from here on in. There were some poor wides coupled with the misfortune of two balls rebounding off the post and late on Darren O’Hagan had a palmed effort that could have been a goal but went the wrong side of the post. Cork. Meanwhile. were a bit more clinical and scored three successive points. Sherlock was again responsible for two, both frees, and Dan Dineen also scored one just before he came off to be replaced by Fionn Herily. MOMENTUM Down got three on the bounce themselves in response as a brace of Andrew Gilmore frees were followed by a fine point from Ryan O’Higgins. With the breeze behind them, Down had the momentum and it felt like this could be the opposite of last week when Down were caught late. This time, maybe they would kick on to a late victory? However, the score to level the game proved elusive and from one of the shots off the frame of the goal, Cork broke and went two ahead again as Mark Cronin scored. Mattie Taylor quickly added another. Ryan McEvoy tried to haul Down back into it with a point but Colm O’Callaghan pointed when he tried to lob Gary McMahon for a goal. Fittingly it was Sherlock who got the final score of the day to give Cork a four point victory and send them into a final day battle royale with Offaly where the winner stays up and the loser goes down. If it’s a draw then mathematically Clare, who Down host, could also get sucked into the mix as with more than two teams level on points it would go to score difference. However, for that to matter Down would need to win by a significant margin of 20-plus points. So, this week in Newry is a game that Down can look at only as a chance to try and build some positivity and momentum as they head into their Championship preparation ahead of a trip to Clones to take on Monaghan. Down: Rory Burns; Peter Fegan, Finn McElroy, Gerard Collins; Darren O’Hagan 0-2, Conor Poland, Ceilum Doherty 0-1; Anthony Doherty, Niall McParland; Anthony Morgan, Liam Kerr, Ryan McEvoy 0-1; Andrew Gilmore 0-3f, Pat Havern 0-3, Cory Quinn 0-1. Subs: Kevin McKernan for McParland (23, inj), Tiarnan Rushe 1-0 for Quinn (35), Gary McMahon for Burns (35+3), Ryan O’Higgins 0-1 for Morgan (58). Cork: Micheal Martin; Kevin O’Donovan, Kevin Flahive, Kieran Histon; John Cooper, Rory Maguire, Matthew Taylor 0-1; Ian Maguire, Colm O’Callaghan 0-2; Daniel Dineen 0-1, Eoghan McSweeney, John O’Rourke 0-1; Stephen Sherlock 1-7, 5f, Brian Hurley, Cathal O’Mahony 0- 3. Subs: Tommy Walsh for Histon (5), Fionn Herily for Dineen (54), Mark Cronin 0-1 for Hurley (59), Cian Kiely for McSweeney (65), Joe Grimes for O’Rourke (70)

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