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Down depart with dominant display

Down 3-13 Kildare 1-12

By Ciaran Daly

Down's National League campaign finished with a flourish but victory over Kildare was not enough to save the Mournemen from relegation.

Kildare began the brighter of the two teams and took the lead on six minutes when Eoghan O'Flaherty pointed well after a patient build-up. Kevin McKernan levelled things up for Down but two points from Johnny Doyle pushed the visitors back in front.

The momentum swung in Down's favour on 16 minutes when a strong run from Mark Poland created space for Benny Coulter who unselfishly passed to Eoin McCartan who easily palmed home from close range.

Kildare responded by scoring next through Eoghan Callaghan but the pattern for the remainder of the first half saw Down match Kildare in the scoring stakes.

Donal O'Hare was unerring from the dead ball and two points in quick succession from the Burren man allowed Down to maintain their lead.

When Benny Coulter squeezed a point over under pressure with the last kick of the first half Down led 1-6 to 0-6 at the break.

James McCartan's side have led at half-time in all but one of their National League games this year but before Sunday's game they had only gone on to beat one side, Mayo.

Down have been particularly sluggish in the early stages of the second half throughout their campaign but they began the second period against Kildare with a bang.

A fine individual point from Kevin McKernan moved the Mourne men into a four-point lead and when Eoin McCartan got his second goal of the game on 37 minutes by pouncing on a rebounded effort from McKernan, Down had plenty of breathing space.

The game effectively ended as a contest when McKernan scored Down's third and decisive goal on 54 minutes. Mark Poland, Donal O'Hare and Kalum King all made telling contributions in the build-up but McKernan's emphatic finish only helped to underline his status as the man-of-the-match.

Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney introduced some of his U21 panel from the bench and was rewarded with a goal with six minutes left on the clock.

The Down defence did well to block an initial effort, but the ball fell kindly to Padraig O'Neill who smashed it first-time past Brendan McVeigh in the Down goal.

Kildare continued to press in the closing stages but the Down defence held firm and points late on from substitute Niall Madine ensured that the Mourne men took maximum points from their last game in Division One.

DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, O Costello; D Rooney, P Turley, R Boyle (0-1); K King, K McKernan (1-3); M Poland, P Devlin (0-1, 1f), K Quinn; D O'Hare (0-4, 4f), E McCartan (2-0), B Coulter (0-1); (Subs) A McArdle for K Quinn (29 mins), R Mallon (0-1) for B Coulter (half-time), N Madine (0-2) for E McCartan (57), D Turley for P Turley (63), R Kelly for D O'Hare (67).

KILDARE: S Connolly; O Lyons, M Foley, H McGrillen; P Cribbin (0-2), P Kelly (0-1), E Doyle; D Flynn, P O'Neill (1-0); W Groome, E Callaghan (0-1), E O'Flaherty (0-2); J Doyle (0-5, 3f), S Johnston, A Smith (0-1); (Subs) S Hurley for D Flynn (41 mins), F Dowling for S Johnston (46), N Kelly for E Callaghan (52), C McNally for W Groome (57) T O'Connor for A Smith (64).

Referee: David Gough (Meath).

Belfast Telegraph


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