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Down are a qualified success as they show their class

You won’t hear Down manager James McCartan complain about the back door system that allows beaten teams a second chance.

Less than a hour after his team’s stunning victory over All Ireland champions Kerry he hailed the football qualifiers that saw the Mourne men come storming through unsung and unheralded.

“We got very little credit for going to Tullamore and beating Offaly or beating Sligo in Breffni Park,” he said.

“But ultimately that particular learning curve proved very beneficial for us in that it was something of a rehabilitation process after losing to Tyrone in the Ulster championship semi-final.

“But an All Ireland semi-final against Kildare is going to be another step up, so if anyone in Down gets carried away with that performance they would be very foolish.

“I’m not suggesting we’re going to win the next day, but all I can ask is that we perform and if we perform and go down fighting we can live with that.

“But if we go out and fall flat on our faces because of this display and all the inevitable nostalgia it would be hugely disappointing for Down football.”

A downbeat Kerry boss Jack O’Connor offered a number of genuine reasons for his side’s eclipse, principally the fact they were short a number of key players and as well their last competitive match was four weeks ago.

“I suppose there were several factors. It didn’t help that we were going into battle without our full army. Down came into this game having had two or three good games in the last month and possibly the break didn’t suit us.”

But what concerned him more than anything else was referee Joe McQuillan’s decision to rule out a Kerry goal because of an illegal handpass.

“Personally I felt the decision to disallow our first half goal was a critical call. There must have been at least 20 such handpasses in the game that weren’t deemed illegal,” he said.

“I said at the start of the year when this rule was brought in that some day it would cost a team big time. It was a crucial decision.”

He then said that he didn’t want his comments to sound like sour grapes and he paid tribute to Down saying they were a more vibrant and energetic side.

Down forward Martin Clarke was pleased with his team's display after the shock 1-16 to 1-10 win over champions Kerry in the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.

“It was a great performance throughout — we just focused on getting a good start and going on from there,” said Clarke, who scored four points.

“Kerry enjoyed a good patch in the first half but we weathered that and kicked on well.

The Mourne men made a blistering start with Mark Poland's goal helping them to a six-point lead.

“The goal settled us and after going six points up we knew we had a chance,” added Clarke.

“It was similar to the Sligo game last weekend when we had a considerable lead so we knew what to do.”

Belfast Telegraph

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