Down Ladies enjoyed a comfortable win over Longford, subsequently maintaining their Intermediate status.
DOWN Ladies travelled to Inniskeen, County Monaghan on Saturday, (11 August) to face a Longford side, with victory necessary to retain Intermediate status in 2019.
Down could not have got off to a better start. In the first minute, Kyla Trainor found Leah Beattie, who, on her debut, showed great awareness to find her strike partner, Sarah Dougherty at the far post, and Sarah duly despatched the ball to the back of the net.
Longford were clearly stunned by the frenetic start by Down and Jess Foy was to add a second goal before Longford were to get any grip on the game.
Michelle Farrell, Longford’s best player on the day managed to get a point back for Longford who, shortly after could have added a goal but for a great save by Christine McCarthy in the Down goals.
Longford had their best spell of the half at this stage, but simply found the Down back line of Niamh Price, Orla Duffy and Laura Morgan, too hard to break down, and having weathered the storm, Down added points through Kyla Trainor and Kate McKay, before Jessica Foy was to score her second goal and the third for Down with the play of the day.
Orla Duffy won a ball in the heart of the Down defence, moved forward and found Foy some 50 yards from goal. Foy took off on an electrifying run leaving a number of Longford players in her wake, before coolly side footing to the corner of the net.
Down were totally in command at this stage. Laoise Duffy added another point for the red and blacks before the most controversial moment of the match. On a rare Longford break, a goal chance seemed to be well saved by Christine McCarthy, only for the referee to award a penalty to Longford and show a yellow card to Christine.
With Christine on her way to the bin, Kyla Trainor faced the penalty and made a great save. Justice served, as Down would see it, to be compounded seconds later by Sarah Dougherty who added a further point for Down at the other end of the pitch. Sarah’s last action of the half as she was to be sacrificed to allow Emer Murtagh to take up position in the Down goals. Sarah was to return in the second half when the substitution was reversed.
Further points from Kyla Trainor and Laoise Duffy before the half left Down with a commanding lead at the break, 3-06 to 0-02.
In the first minute of the second half Monica Bannon got the best possible start for Longford finding the Down net. The next score would be crucial, and, after a fluent move covering the full length of the field, Kyla Trainor was found brilliantly by Leah Beattie and her rasping shot from 21 yards found the back of the net to cancel out the Longford opener. A real boost for Down at the best possible time.
Longford fought hard to get a grip on the game and were rewarded by two points from Michelle Farrell again and Mairead Reynolds. Grainne McClean, playing in the sweeper role, got another for Down before Michelle Farrell was to point again for Longford.
Foy was to add another for Down before the referee was to award a second penalty to Longford, this one converted by Farrell leaving the score at 4-8 to 2-5 with 15 minutes to go.
Down needed to control the game at this stage, and showed great discipline in doing so. The half back line of Cassie Moan, Aoibheann McCarvill and Leah Milligan was a solid wall, and Susie Baxter who brought fresh legs to the forward line, all worked hard to ensure that Longford could not progress to the danger zone.
Only one further point was to be scored in the last 15 minutes and that went to Down, again from the boot of McClean. Down emerged as victors with a final score of 4-09 to 2-05.
This was a difficult end to the season for Down with so many regular players unavailable for various reasons. But, many girls gained experience at this level much earlier than would have been expected, and Intermediate status was maintained.
A sincere thank you is due to all those who stepped up to the plate including Jim Burns and Fergus Bradley in the coaching capacity. A lot of work will now be put in by the County Board to ensure these girls are fully rewarded with the right set up for the incoming season.