Johnsonís late point keeps Down in Division Two

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Johnsonís late point keeps Down in Division Two thumbnailFull forward Barry OíHagan takes on a Cork defender on Sunday at PŠirc UŪ Rinn.

A LAST-GASP Jerome Johnston free kick kept Down in Division Two of the Allianz Football League


It was truly dramatic finish with over 70 minutes played. But in final seconds of the seventh and last National League match of 2017, the Kilcoo man displayed an ice-cool temperament to score with a difficult free from way out on the right flank

That late-late point earned his Mourne side a draw at Pairc Ui Rinn against hot favourites Cork and it was enough to give them five league points, points that lifted them above Derry (on scoring difference) and preserved their Division Two status

Few pundits gave Down a hope in hell with the record books stating that Cork had beaten the Mourne men on the last six occasions and indeed, Down had not come out on top against the Rebels since well before they lost by a single point in the 2010 All Ireland Final at Croke Park

Well they didn't beat them on Sunday, but a draw was just as good

Results elsewhere needed to go in Down's favour and they did

Derry got a late winner against Fermanagh to help Down's cause but it wasn't enough to stop the Oak Leaf men being relegated

Mourne boss Eamonn Burns was pleased at escaping the drop, as he said: "The team worked hard to close their lead and in the end Jerome had a fantastic score. I have to say that I couldn't have asked any more from the team." As well as grabbing that point-saving score right at the death, Jerome Johnston opened the scoring on seven minutes to put his side in front - for the only time in the game

And indeed after that score Down were always chasing the match. But in the first half they were missing chances (nine in the first 35 minutes) that gave Cork the impetus to push on and build a four-point half-time advantage

The visitors' other first half points came from Darragh O'Hanlon, Caolan Mooney, Ryan Johnston and 'keeper Michael Cunningham, with Cork pointing mostly through big midfielder Colm O'Neill from frees. But a home goal on 33 minutes made the Down changing room at the interval a little disappointing

Ruiari Deane latched onto a Paul Kerrigan pass, side-stepped Michael Cunningham before firing into the net from close range

Yet far from losing confidence, Down began the second half on the front foot with Barry O'Hagan, Caolan Mooney and Shay Millar knocking over the bar to close the gap to a single score

However, Cork again upped the tempo with O'Neill, Kerrigan and Deane each on target

Still Down showed remarkable tenacity to stay in the match, mostly through the accurate kicking of Jerome Johnston

With 10 minutes left though Cork's John O'Rourke opened up a three-point cushion and surely even the most optimistic Down fans couldn't see a way back

Yet the Johnston boys could with Ryan closing the gap: 1-10 to 0-11

Two points the difference

One minute left

Jerome points from a '45 One point the difference

Another Down '45

This time Jerome doesn't hit the target

Down and out? No. Wait

Another Down free way out on the right flank. The ultimate pressure kick But this time Jerome, with the most important kick of his life, confidently and coolly knocked over the bar to keep his side in Division Two

After the match, manager Burns praised his sure-footed kicker, saying: "Jerome 's kick was far from easy. He's a left-footed kicker and so the right hand side of the field suited him. But it was a big ask and he came up trumps

"We 're glad to retain our status and it gives us a bit of room to look forward to Armagh in Newry on June 4."


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