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A Magic boost for Down's future

By John Campbell

Down manager Ross Carr received an unexpected boost yesterday € from the hurling code.

Carr's decision to give a starting place to county hurling ace Gareth 'Magic' Johnston in this special match against the Powerade Allstars at rain-lashed St Patrick's Park, Newcastle which raised a considerable sum for the Marie Curie nurses and the Southern Area Hospice certainly paid dividends as the strapping midfielder turned in a useful performance and had a hand in his team's opening goal which was finished to the net by Kevin Gracey.

Another hurler, Brendan McGourty, was introduced as a second-half substitute and also hinted that he might have a contribution to make to the big ball game.

But the weather tended to play havoc with any real hopes manager Carr had of gleaning any detailed insight into additional resources he might have at his disposal.

That early Gracey goal was complemented by another from Conor Gribben and by the half-way stage Down led by 2-4 to 0-3 € this despite the presence of '06 Mourne county skipper Brendan Coulter in the Allstars attack.

On this occasion, though, he was outshone by the sprightly Ronan Sexton while John Fegan and Declan Burns also showed up in flashes.

One of the most impressive performances overall was given by the youthful Kevin McKernan. The stocky iBurren clubman, who piloted Abbey CBS to MacRory Cup and Hogan Cup glory last year, showed coolness under pressure in the Powerade Allstars defence and a marked willingness to use the ball intelligently. Just over two months ago he was Burren's best player against Mayobridge in the senior football championship final and he certainly looks particularly comfortable in the Newcastle setting.

Brendan Loughran offered a hint, too, that he could mount a challenge for a regular place in the Down side.

He picked off a brace of points and used space cleverly particularly in the early stages while at the same time showing gritty determination. Daniel Hughes also looked sharp when he came on from the bench and helped himself to a couple of points.

DOWN: B Connell; S Toner, D Cunningham, C Murdock; J Doran, J Lynch, O Henry; P Turley, G Johnston; N Sweeney, A Burns, S Kearney; B Loughran, K Gracey, C Gribben. Substitutes: P Turley (Downpatrick), B McGourty, B Sweeney, B Doran, D Hughes, R McArdle, K McGuigan, A Carville

POWERADE ALLSTARS: S Brannigan; G Barry, D McCartan, B Rodgers; J McGovern, A Molloy, K McKernan; M McLean, P Telford; R Sexton, B Coulter, D Burns; J Quinn, J Fegan, S Ward. Substitutes: A Fegan, M Lively, R McSweeney, B O'Reilly, K Oakes, D Rooney.

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