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Down back on song as Armagh leave it late

By John Campbell

The weather may have prevented a number of teams from making progress in the Allianz Football League yesterday but three Ulster sides - Down, Armagh and Antrim - nonetheless managed to maintain their impetus for promotion, albeit in three separate divisions.

Down certainly delivered a surprise when they travelled to Roscommon and overcame the home side by 0-12 to 0-7.

Having fallen to Cork last weekend and facing a Roscommon outfit that had surprised Tipperary, the Mourne county were expected to find the going tough at Dr Hyde Park.

But their resilience, stamina and character carried them to a win that could yet help them figure in the promotion race to the top tier.

Certainly manager Eamon Burns can derive considerable satisfaction from a game in which his defence was generally authoritative, his midfield energetic throughout and his attack lively and inventive on occasions.

A match that was only given the green light a short time before the throw-in actually provided Down with a considerable first half fillip.

With the attack seeing plenty of the ball, a raft of scorers that included Niall Donnelly, Darren O'Hagan, Ryan Johnston, Caolan Mooney and Donal O'Hare helped sweep the Mournemen into a 0-9 to 0-3 interval lead.

O'Hare's brace of points were particularly sweet for Burns to savour as the player is only coming back to full fitness after injury. Roscommon carried greater danger after the break yet they were unable to piece the Down defence with any degree of regularity.

The loss of Ian Kilbride to a red card proved a big blow to the home side who were unable to match their visitors' passion in the closing phase of the game.

In Division Three, Armagh lived dangerously before they finally pipped a gallant Longford side by 1-11 to 1-10 in a nail-biting finish at the Athletic Grounds.

Despite having to play for the greater part of the second half without Andrew Farrell who was red-carded, Longford fought tigerishly and it took an injury-time goal from man of the match Ethan Rafferty to get Armagh back on level terms at 1-10 each before skipper Rory Grugan fired over what proved to be the winning point.

But orchard county boss Kieran McGeeney was far from impressed with his side's display.

"We were terrible, we played very poorly. We had 34 shots compared to their 18 or 19 - too many chances were missed," said McGeeney.

And Antrim are still on course for promotion even though they dropped a point against Wicklow in Division Four.

The match finished at 0-12 each with Ryan Murray scorer-in-chief for the Saffrons while Patrick McBride, Peter Healy and CJ McGourty were also prominent.

Donegal fell to a third consecutive defeat to Dublin losing by 0-20 to 0-15, but manager Declan Bonner can take encouragement from his side's display.

Belfast Telegraph


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