Down have only themselves to blame
Down 0-14 Tipperary 1-11
With massive challenges looming against Donegal and Armagh spanning the next fortnight, Down manager James McCartan was given much food for thought after Tipperary, who appeared to have lost their momentum in the final quarter, recovered to snatch a draw at Pairc Esler, Newry.
McCartan’s side remain unbeaten in the National League but the point dropped against John Evans’s side could still prove a factor in determining just which two sides make the leap from Division Two into Division One.
Yet Down can have few complaints. Too many unforced errors, over-elaboration on occasions and a penchant for conceding unnecessary frees, particularly in the closing stages, combined to rob them of a victory that at one stage appeared to be within their gambit.
Manager McCartan was typically forthright afterwards admitting that his side should have been able to maximise their home advantage against a Tipperary side that had not gained a point in the league prior to their Newry visit.
“We tended to make things hard for ourselves and now we must focus on the games against Donegal and Armagh. They will really let us know where we are at,” he said.
With Martin Clarke, his brother John and Conor Laverty up front, the Mournemen looked sharp in the initial stages but were rocked when Brian Mulvihill’s shot, which seemed to have been covered by goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh, crossed the line to give the visitors a morale-boosting goal. Down’s concentration was clearly affected by this score but with Martin Clarke giving a lead, they played with much more zest and venom in the third quarter.
Clarke, who scored five points in all with four of from frees, was the architect of much of his team’s attacking strategy.
Tipperary, frequently carrying a threat up front and with their defence restricting the Down forwards to shooting from distance, gained in belief as the match progressed.
And just when Down fans in the big crowd were preparing to hail what they thought would be a third league victory on the trot, the accurate Barry Grogan stepped up to swing over a point from a late free that earned Tipperary a division of the spoils.
Down may have been without Daniel Hughes, normally a useful source of scores but the fact that almost half of their total came from frees will be worry for manager McCartan who is aware that clinical finishing will be very much the order of the day if the scalps of Donegal and Armagh are now to be claimed.
DOWN: McVeigh, McCartan, McArdle, Rafferty, McKernan, Colgan, Garvey, Rodgers, King, Maginn (0-1), Clarke (0-5, 0-4 frees), McComiskey (0-2, both frees), Laverty (0-3), J Clarke (0-3), Coulter. Subs: Fitzpatrick (for King, half-time), Kearney for C Maginn 40 mins), M Poland for Laverty (57), McCartan (for P McComiskey 67).
TIPPERARY: Fitzgerald, Curran, McDonald, Morrissey, Aylward (0-2), Costigan, McGrath, Hannigan, Grogan, Mulvihill (1-0), Austin (0-1), Cagney, Sweeney (0-5, 0-4 frees), Coen, Grogan (0-3, all frees). Subs: Hahessy (for Coen, half-time), Carey (for Cagney 42 mins), Acheson (for Austin 52), A Rockett (for S Grogan 68).
Referee: J Curley (Meath).