McGrath’s two-in-a-row bid falls short as Down sink the Reds

Drogheda Independent - - SPORT -

PETE McGrath couldn’t mas­ter­mind a sec­ond suc­ces­sive open­ing-day vic­tory over his na­tive Down, as Louth started their Divi­sion 2 cam­paign on the back foot in Drogheda on Sun­day.

De­spite a solid start, and a spir­ited sec­ond-half come­back, the Reds never re­ally looked like em­u­lat­ing Fer­managh’s heroic win in Newry 12 months ago.

That bright open­ing saw Louth edge ahead in the early stages, but play­ing with a strong breeze at their backs in the first-half, Down hit the front on 17 min­utes and led all the way to the fin­ish line.

But they had to scrap to get on top. Louth bossed pos­ses­sion in the first quar­ter, but seemed hes­i­tant to shoot into the strong wind and by the 10th minute they had just a cou­ple of Wil­liams Woods frees to show for some ex­pan­sive play.

The size­able Down sup­port must have been slightly con­cerned by their team’s start but they slowly dragged them­selves into the game and four points with­out re­ply from Niall Don­nelly, Aaron Mor­gan, Caolan Mooney and Shay Mil­lar saw them open a two-point lead, 0-4 to 0-2.

But that Down pur­ple patch didn’t check Louth’s early mo­men­tum and points from Woods and Tommy Durnin ei­ther side of a Dar­ragh O’Han­lon free en­sured their were still well in touch by the 29th minute, trailing 0-5 to 0-4.

Even when Aaron Mor­gan and Con­naire Har­ri­son made

it 7-4, Louth would have been happy enough with their lot at the in­ter­val, but they could eas­ily have ad­journed all square when Ger McSor­ley burst through on goal with the ball on the deck.

With plenty of op­tions in­side the Gaels at­tacker prob­a­bly should have scooped the ball up but he flashed a shot from the ground across the face of goal and one of the few goal chances in the game went a beg­ging.

When Durnin cut Louth’s deficit to two points af­ter the break, the con­test seemed del­i­cately poised, but it was Down who seized the ini­tia­tive with an­other four-point burst.

Ea­mon Burns started to ring the changes early in the sec­ond-half and the quality he was able to spring from the bench was to prove cru­cial as Kevin McKer­nan and Donal O’Hare found their range. With Dar­ragh O’Han­lon calso on­vert­ing two more frees Down opened a six-point cush­ion by the end of the third quar­ter.

Louth looked all out of ideas at that stage, but they hit a pur­ple patch of their own.

Woods slot­ted two more frees and in between Andy McDonnell and Derek Maguire kicked a cou­ple of su­perb scores from the right to mmakr it 0-11 to 0-9.

Time was run­ning out, but Louth seemed to have the mo­men­tum again and looked as likely to push on for vic­tory op­po­nents.

But al­most as quickly as they raised sup­port­ers’ hopes, Down dashed them again as Har­ri­son put three between the sides again.

From the re­sult­ing kick-out Craig Lynch re­turned pos­ses­sion straight to Har­ri­son and he ac­cepted the gift with open arms to put four between the sides, 0-13 to 0-9.

Louth were now al­most cer­tainly go­ing to re­quire a goal to res­cue some­thing from the game, but af­ter Maguire pegged a point back it was Down who raised the first and only green flag of the game when Har­ri­son fired to the bottom cor­ner at the sec­ond at­tempt.

That was pretty much cur­tains for Louth as the sides traded a fur­ther point apiece in the fi­nal min­utes of nor­mal time, Woods con­vert­ing an­other free and Caolan Mooney fist­ing over his sec­ond of the game from close range at the other end.

Tommy Durnin comes to Andy McDonnell’s aid as David McKib­bin and Kevin MCKer­nan close in.

dur­ing Sun­day’s Al­lianz League Divi­sion 2 clash in Drogheda. Pic­tures: Paul Con­nor

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