Down in dumps as Kerry run riot
Down 0-06 - Kerry 0-22
The spectre of relegation from Division One of the Allianz Football League now looms large over a Down side that hit rock-bottom in terms of commitment, endeavour and pride in this clinical execution at the hands of Kerry.
Out-gunned and out-thought throughout, the Mourne side simply had no answer to the efficiency, pace and crisp finishing of their opponents that had brought them to their knees long before referee Martin Duffy sounded the final whistle yesterday.
For Down boss Eamonn Burns, the massive challenge of striving to mount a recovery mission with teams such as Dublin and Cork lurking on the horizon.
"This was a very disappointing performance after the improvement we showed against Monaghan," admitted Burns. "Some things are hard to explain in football. We have a lot of experienced players in this Down side and some younger lads coming through but to be honest we did not see this setback coming."
Even at the end of the first five minutes the writing was on the wall for Down. By that stage they had been guilty of surrendering possession on three occasions, conceded ground to such an extent that Kerry carved out openings that resulted in three wides and saw Connaire Harrison miss the simplest of frees.
With Bryan Sheehan and Kieran Donaghy settling comfortably at midfield and Paul Murphy pulling the attacking strings, Kerry surged into a 0-3 to nil lead by the 12th minute with Darren O'Sullivan, Alan Fitzgerald and Sheehan on target.
Yet four minutes later the sides were deadlocked at 0-3 each when Harrison discovered his scoring touch in potting two frees and Barry O'Hagan landed the home team's first point from play. But Down's renaissance proved something of a false dawn. The lively O'Sullivan and Stephen O'Brien inched the Kingdom ahead before Fionn Fitzgerald, the ever-accurate Sheehan and Darren O'Sullivan ushered them into more comfortable territory to the extent that they basked in a 0-9 to 0-3 interval lead, Down having been held scoreless for the 20-minute spell preceding the interval.
And it went from bad to worse in the second-half. Kerry stepped on the accelerator and when they introduced Colm Cooper, Brendan O'Sullivan and Barry John Keane from the bench, these three players scored more in the closing 12-minutes than Down landed in the entire game.
It was as bad as that. A spiritless, deflated Down side meekly surrendered as the Kingdom purred through the final quarter, scoring almost at will while at the same time restricting their hosts to just three points.
A salutary lesson for Down then, their bleak mission best encapsulated by manager Burns when he said: "In Division One you are going to be playing against the best sides but we were a wee bit off the mark in different sectors out there."
DOWN: M Cunningham; L Howard, G McGovern, D O'Hagan; C McGovern, A Carr, D O'Hanlon; P Turley, M McKay; J Murphy, M Poland, K McKernan; C Maginn 0-1, C Harrison 0-2 (f) , B O'Hagan 0-2. Subs: J Flynn for Carr (26), R Mallon 0-1 for Murphy (36), R Boyle for Howard (41), M Magee for D O'Hagan (41)), H Brown for Turley (52), D O'Hare for B O'Hagan (56). Yellow cards: Murphy (19), Poland (35), Boyle (54).
KERRY: B Kealy; M O Se, M Griffin, S Enright; P O'Connor, A O'Mahony, F Fitzgerald; B Sheehan 0-6 (2 '45', 2f), K Donaghy; A Walsh, P Murphy, D Walsh; D O'Sullivan 0-4, A Fitzgerald 0-3 (2f), S O'Brien 0-1). Subs: C Cooper 0-3 for A Walsh (42), P Crowley for O'Connor (47), B J Keane 0-3 for Alan Fitzgerald, P Kilkenny for O'Se (60), T Walsh for Donaghy (63), B O'Sullivan 0-2 for D Walsh (64).
Referee: Martin Duffy (Sligo)