Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Fightback not enough for Down hurlers to beat drop

Wicklow 2-14 Down 0-17: Down’s hurlers have been relegated from Division Two A of the National Hurling League next season after losing their play-off with Wicklow at Trim yesterday.



On target: Paul Braniff scored 14 points for Down yesterdayDOWN’S hurlers have been relegated from Division Two A of the National Hurling League next season after losing their play-off with Wicklow at Trim yesterday.

The Mournemen made Wicklow battle all the way for their victory though as they came thundering back with a stirring second half performance that saw the half time deficit of 1-10 to 0-8 cut to just three points at the final whistle.

And it was Paul Braniff, who played at centre-forward instead full-forward, who led the Down fight-back, his scoring from free-taking being truly superb as he racked up an impressive tally of |0-14, with nine of his scores coming from placed balls.

Down had led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 10 minutes following points by Braniff, Aaron O’Prey and Daniel Toner, but then Wicklow took control of the play to dominate the exchanges up to half time.

Midfielder Eamonn Kearns started the Wicklow surge with a magnificent goal, drilling to the net following good work by Wayne O’Gorman and Eanan Glynn, both of whom had their best performances this year.

Jonathan O’Neill was the score provider for Wicklow, spraying the vital passes around for O’Gorman, Glynn and corner-forward Andy O’Brien to pump over a string of well taken points.

Considering that they were playing against the wind in the first half, Wicklow would have been happy to retire ahead by five points, 1-10 to 0-8.

And when Jonathan O’Neill blasted a penalty to the net six minutes into the second half, it looked as if Wicklow might coast to victory.

Down who had played out a 1-14 to 0-17 draw with Wicklow back in February, had other ideas though and they gradually got on top of the play.

And Wicklow did not help their cause either, as they shot eight wides in the second half, some from very scoreable positions.

Down applied almost unrelenting pressure as they sensed a chance of a comeback, but as Wicklow defended stoutly Paul Braniff continued popping over those points from frees and Wicklow only survived by three points at the finish.

Scorers for Wicklow: Jonathan O’Neill (1-1), Eamonn Kearns (1-1), Wayne O’Gorman (0-3), Enan Glynn (0-3), Andy O’Brien (0-2), Ronan Keddy (0-2), Billy Cuddihy (0-1), Christy Moorehouse (0-1).

Down: Paul Braniff (0-14, nine frees), Michael Cunningham (0-1), Daniel Toner (0-1), Aaron O’Prey (0-1).

Wicklow: J. Murphy, J. Connors, G. Keogh, B. Cuddihy, J. Henderson, S. Kelly, G. Bermingham, E. Kearns, R. Keddy, J. Connors, W. O’Gorman, E. Dunne, E. Glynn, J. O’Neill, A. O’Brien. Subs: C. Moorehouse for J. Connors, E. O’Neill for Jim Connors, L. Kennedy for E. Dunne.

Down: S. Keith, M. Hughes, S. Ennis, J. Smyth, F. Conway, C. Woods, M. Ennis, E. Clarke, M. Cunningham, P. Sheehan, C. Mageean, A. O’Prey, D. Toney, P. Braniff, P. Keith. Subs: A. Savage for E . Clarke, D. Hughes for P. Sheehan, M. Turley for P. Keith, A. Clarke for D. Toner.

Referee: F. Smith (Meath).

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