Round Six, Allianz Football League Division Three
DEEP into injury time Donal O’Hare (pictured) hit a high-pressure winning point to give his Down side victory over a dogged Carlow team at Cullen Park on Saturday.
With the sides all square in this Round Six Allianz Football League Division Three fixture, the referee James Bermingham was well over his stipulated three minutes of injury time when he awarded Down a free kick 40 yards out.
The fans were going crazy, the Carlow bench going even crazier (because they felt time was up), as the cool-as-ice Burren man stepped up to take the free kick. But nothing was going to faze the lethal-footed O’Hare and, as he has been doing all season, he fired over the bar radar-like to give Down their fifth win in succession and put the Mourne men firmly on track for a rapid return to Division Two.
It was a sensational end to the match and there was also high drama in the eight previous minutes. Down looked to be easing to victory with a three-point advantage but with four minutes of normal time left Paul Devlin was red-carded.
A minute later Eoghan Ruth drilled low into the Down net to level the match. On 70 minutes Caolan Mooney fired over a magnificent effort from all of 50 yards, and that despite being knocked off balance.
Carlow though were not finished and on 72 minutes the home side seemed to have earned a draw when substitute Diarmuid Walshe pointed with a free kick, a score many in the ground thought was wide off the posts.
That free kick came from what the referee deemed a high Kevin McKernan tackle that earned the Down man a second yellow and then a red card.
The stadium was at fever-pitch. The visitors were two men down but still were going for the winner. Mooney and Jerome Johnston ran at the Carlow defence with the under-fire Bermingham awarding a freekick as the duo were brought crashing down. And of course that man O’Hare did the business.
Immediately after the final whistle the referee was first confronted by an irate Newry man Stephen Poacher, who coaches Carlow, and then an even more irate manager Turlough O’Brien. But both sides had cause to have issues with Bermingham as the official had sent off two Down men and brandished yellow cards to six others. On the other hand the referee had also sent off Carlow’s Shane Redmond as well as yellow-carding a further six home players.
On a slate-grey day with the clouds heavy with rain, on a sodden Cullen Park, and despite a strong breeze in their faces, Down began brightly. Donal O’Hare confidently pointed on two minutes while Daniel Guinness added another a couple of minutes later.
Meanwhile in those early stages Carlow scarcely left their own half, but in a rare break, big full forward Darragh Foley knocked over a free.
Down were moving the ball freely and in one intricate ten-man move on six minutes the visitors should have finished with a goal but Pierce Laverty, in front of the target, failed to pick out a red and black shirt.
Still Donal O’Hare scored twice more from frees and with three points in front and playing well, everything seemed rosy in the Mourne camp.
O’Hare got the third of his points on 14 minutes but Down were not to score again for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile Carlow took over the show with midfielder Brendan Murphy pointing from play. And for the last 20 minutes of the half they were in control, the Mourne men resorting to fouling with the result that they had five men booked.
And Darragh Foley was in stunning form with freekicks, the full forward firing over five times, some from ridiculous angles and distances. Thus at the break the visitors trailed by three points.
Yet surely with the strong wind on their back the Mournemen would close that three-point gap and ease home. And indeed they began the second half well, pointing five times without reply. These scores coming from Conor Poland, an O’Hare free, a fine angled Darren O’Hagan effort from way out on the right, a Paul Devlin free and a left-footed Ryan Johnston score.
At this stage Down were cruising. But again things were to change. A Foley free on 49 minutes revitalised Carlow and although Paul Devlin hit a monster 55-yard freekick, Jordan Morrissey did likewise at the other end. Then there was just one point between the sides.
Again Down picked up the pace with Conor Poland hitting a mighty score from the 45 line and Devlin twice knocking over freekicks. In between Carlow substitute Diarmuid Walshe pointed at the other end.
And Down could have finished the match as a contest on 64 minutes when Jerome Johnston found himself in the clear but instead of picking out the unmarked Devlin on his left, the wee Kilcoo man elected to shoot, with the Carlow keeper Robert Sansom making a brave block.
Then came that thrill-a-second finish with Carlow scoring a goal and a point while Down had two players red-carded but hit two absolutely cracking points to win the match.
Carlow: Robert Sansom, Chris Crowley, Shane Redmond, Conor Lawlor, Benny Kavanagh, Eoghan Ruth (1-0), Ciaran Moran, Brendan Murphy (0-1), Sean Murphy, Jordan Morrissey (0-1), Sean Gannon, Darragh O’Brien, Conor Crowley, Darragh Foley (0-7), Daniel St Ledger with subs: Liam Roberts for Crowley (51), Shane Clarke for Kavanagh (51), Diarmuid for Crilly (0-2: 53), Conor Doyle for O’Brien (59).
Down: Rory Burns, Kevin McKernan, Ruairi Wells, Ryan McAleenan, Pierce Laverty Colm Flanagan, Darren O’Hagan (0-1), Johnny Flynn, Caolan Mooney (0-1), Daniel Guinness (0-1), Conor Poland (0-2), Conor Maginn (Paul Devlin: h/t), Jerome Johnston, Connaire Harrison and Donal O’Hare (0-6). With subs Ryan Johnston for Laverty (28), Ceilum Doherty for Guinness (h/t), Paul Devlin (0-4) for Maginn (h/t), Benny McArdle for Flanagan (45), Barry O’Hagan for R Johnston (53).