Mayobridge charged to their fifth Down senior football championship title on the trot when they turned in a slick second-half performance to outgun Loughinisland in a lively decider at Pairc Esler, Newry yesterday.
Loughinisland appeared to have shipped a mortal blow when their midfield talisman Dan Gordon, who captained Down this year, sustained an ankle injury in the second minute that eventually saw him limp out of the action in the eighth minute to be replaced by Barry Ward.
Yet even without Gordon, Loughinisland still carried menace and with Mark Valentine Ryan Stranney and Gareth Johnston looking sharp, they kept the Mayobridge defence under pressure. Former Down ace Alan Molloy assumed more responsibility around the middle after Gordon’s exit to help maintain his team’s momentum.
Stranney’s three points from frees allied to a brace from Valentine and another from Joe Doran were instrumental in giving the challengers a leg-up and with the vastly experienced Brendan Coulter being subdued in the Mayobridge attack, the champions’ creative edge up front was somewhat blunted.
Noel Sexton fired over two points with Coulter and Eoghan Woods also on target but Loughinisland, energetic and resolute, still held a 0-6 to 0-4 interval lead.
But the introduction of Michael Walsh and John Caldwell added a fresh dimension to Mayobridge’s attacking armoury. Caldwell bedded down quickly at midfield and Walsh’s creative flair surfaced, resulting in Benny Coulter having a much more pronounced role.
Indeed, the ubiquitous Coulter helped himself to three further points as Mayobridge gained in confidence. Walsh was on target twice while Eoghan Woods, Shane O’Hare, Rory Barry and Ronan Sexton also found the range.
Loughinisland’s spiky resistance eventually crumbled but not before Valentine, Stranney and O’Reilly had all bagged points.
As if losing Gordon was not enough, Loughinisland suffered another hammerblow three min
utes from the end when Gareth Johnston was carried off with a leg injury that could keep him out of next Sunday’s Down hurling final in which he is scheduled to assist Ballygalget against Portaferry.
Mayobridge scorers: B Coulter (0-4), N Sexton, M Walsh (0-2 each), R Barry, R Sexton, E Woods, S O’Hare (0-1 each).
Loughinisland scorers: R Stranney, (0-4), M Valentine (0-2), B O’Reilly, J Doran (0-1 each).
MAYOBRIDGE: L Coulter; G Barry, C Garvey, S Grant; B Grant, S O’Hare, K O’Hare; E Woods, M Lively; N Sexton, R Sexton, C Magee; R Barry, B Coulter, A Barry. Substitutes: M Walsh for C Magee, J Cauldwell for C OHare (both half-time).
LOUGHINISLAND: C Gordon; R Carvill, Conor O’Toole, M Doran; Cormac O’Toole, J Doran, J Turley; D Gordon, A Molloy; B O’Reilly, R Stranney, J McCarthy; M Valentine, G Johnston, C Reilly. Substitutes; B Ward for Gordon (8 mins).
Referee: Gavin Corrigan