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Down’s first win of 2016

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Down’s first win of 2016 thumbnailDown’s Joe Murphy slips past the outstreched arm of St Mary’s midfielder Peter Carragher at Pairc Esler in the McKenna Cup. 03972c

DOWN gave an inspirational second half performance to blow away the challenge of St Mary's and grab their first win of 2016.

Down ...3-20
St Mary's ...2-14

In this, their third Dr McKenna Cup match, the Mourne men finally got their show on the road at Pairc Esler on Wednesday evening, and in an exciting manner too.

It was the first win for new manager Eamonn Burns and there were other firsts too.

As well as Down picking up their first victory of the season, they scored their first goals, were ahead for the first time in three matches and had their first Man of the Match award when the excellent Arthur McConville was deservingly presented with the trophy.

After the match a relaxed Eamonn Burns said: "It's good to get a win and to move forward. I thought we used the ball well, took better options when we had possession and we took the chances when they appeared."

With two defeats in their previous games, against Donegal and Fermanagh, Down went into this match knowing they needed to fire on all cylinders as this was to be their last competitive game before their opening National League match against Donegal. They were not helped either by a low attendance, brought on by a poor display three days earlier and a bitterly cold evening.

The pressure was on the home side and initially it seemed as though it was going to be another of those instantly forgettable matches as St Mary's, with Castlewellan's Rory Burns, Glenn's Niall McParland, St Peter's Michael O'Hare and Kilcoo's Ryan Johnston in their squad, blasted from the blocks and in the opening three minutes snatched three points, these coming from Neil McNicholl, Brian McGilligan and Niall Toner.

However, the Mourne men responded with Barry O'Hagan pulling one back on four minutes and then Arthur McConville pointed twice in quick succession, the second of these a tremendous effort from way out on the left flank.

Both teams were having spells of superiority and midway through the half the Saints were in control and indeed pointed a further five times, McNicholl (2) and Tommy McCaffrey (3) doing the business. Down's only reply at this stage was a fine point from St Peter's Ryan Boyle.

Still the home side played well in the last 10 minutes of the half and fired over four unanswered scores - from Connaire Harrison, Ryan Boyle, Sean Dornan and a super Barry O'Hagan long-range point.

That O'Hagan point tied the match at eight points apiece with 27 minutes gone but Down were grateful to their 'keeper Stephen Kane who on 16 minutes and 26 minutes made two excellent stops to prevent certain St Mary's goals.

Then McNicholl and Conaill McGovern traded scores but the Saints went in at the break a point ahead after Silverbridge midfielder Peter Carragher knocked over the bar.

On the resumption the Down fans were treated to the Arthur McConville show and in the first 10 minutes after the interval the big Clonduff left corner forward showed his uncanny opportunism with three stunning scores - and when Connaire Harrison fisted over the Saints' bar the Mourne men were looking good for their initial McKenna Cup victory.

Still the visitors took a bit of wind from the Down sails when, on 45 minutes, Aidan McGarrity cut in from the left to drill low into the home net.

That left just one point between the teams but for the remaining 25 minutes Down dominated almost entirely.

In fact in the next 22 minutes the Mourne men totted up an amazing two goals and seven points with just a single score at the other end.

On 49 minutes Barry O'Hagan played in substitute Cathal Doyle who slammed high into the net and the home side added points from O'Hagan, substitute Darragh O'Hanlon (3) and McConville. Conor Myler grabbed a lone St Mary's point.

Meanwhile substitute Packie Downey made his entrance onto Pairc Esler on the hour mark and two minutes later with his first touch, he rose highest in the square to fist a teasing O'Hanlon long ball from way out on the right touchline into the net.

Another two Down subs then got into the scoring stakes with Caolan Mooney and Ryan Mallon each pointing.

With just three minutes of normal time remaining St Mary's made the scoreline respectable when Niall Toner netted and Jack Grugan and Harry Loughran pointed.

However, the last significant move of the match brought Down their third McKenna Cup goal. McConville and Harrison combined to set up Downey and the big Drumgath man drilled into the back of the Saints' net to crown a truly memorable night.

Arthur McConville, with six beautiful scores, was a great choice as Man of the Match but Down had a host of stars.

Barry O'Hagan was close behind McConville while there were top class displays from Stephen Kane, Malachy Magee, Connaire Harrison and of course two-goal Packie Downey.

Roll on the National League!

Down: Stephen Kane, Malachy Magee, Conaill McGovern, Damian Turley, Michael Hughes, Aidan Carr, Ryan Boyle, Peter Turley, Mark McKay, Barry O'Hagan, Connaire Harrison, Joe Murphy, Gareth Johnston, Sean Dornan and Arthur McConville with subs: Cathal Doyle for McKay (black card: 34), Darragh O'Hanlon for D Turley (39), Ryan Mallon for Murphy (56), Caolan Mooney for Johnston (57), Joe McDermott for Dornan (60), Packie Downey for O'Hagan (60).

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