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Down fall again as they battle the drop

Kerry 0-11 Down 1-5

By Brian Mellon

Division One's relegation battle will go down to the wire after Kerry picked up their first points of the campaign at the expense of a disappointing Down side.

Fresh off an impressive win over All-Ireland finalists Mayo, Down were simply caught cold as Kerry hit eight points before half-time thanks to Dr Crokes star Johnny Buckley's free taking abilities and scores from Declan O'Sullivan and Listowel's Brian McGuire.

Down's sole reply was a point from full-forward Connaire Harrison on 18 minutes, forcing manager James McCartan to ring in the changes, Darren O'Hagan replacing the injured Carr and Damien Turley replacing Ryan Mallon.

The visitors eventually came to life early in the second half with Donal O'Hare hitting the net on 39 minutes and O'Hare converted a free a minute later following a foul on Ryan Boyle. With just three between the sides, Kerry retreated and forced Down to shoot from distance.

Paul Galvin was introduced on 45 minutes and he helped shore up Kerry's midfield, slowing play and giving new recruits McGuire, Fionn Fitzgerald, Jonathan Lyne and Mark Griffin more ball time.

Darran O'Sullivan missed a penalty on 58 minutes before Declan O'Sullivan collected his third point from play and Listowel's Brian McGuire added another.

Down's replies came from the hard working Donal O'Neill, Benny Coulter and an Arthur McConville free. O'Neill was one of Down's few shining lights, putting in an impressive shift down the right flank while Brendan McArdle kept Donaghy shackled.

Afterwards, Down Manager McCartan revealed how an unexpected injury to centre back Aidan Carr had put paid to his side's defensive plans against key threats such as Darren and Declan O'Sullivan.

"We lost a player in the warm-up and while Aidan (Carr) did pass a fitness test he probably shouldn't have played. The injury threw our defensive strategy into disarray very early on and our replacements wouldn't have been up to speed," McCartan explained.

"In the second half we set up completely differently just to try and frustrate but it was all about the performance by that stage," he added.

Meanwhile, Kerry Manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice admitted that his side had lost shape in the second half but was happy that they now had points on the board.

"We almost invited Down on and in desperation to get the two points we seemed to retreat into our shell a bit. It's good for the lads themselves to get the two points, though, as they are working hard," he stated.

Kerry: B Kealy; M O Se, A O'Mahony, S Enright; F Fitzgerald, K Young, B McGuire (0-2); A Maher, E Brosnan; J Lyne (0-1), D Walsh, J Buckley (0-5, 3f); D O'Sullivan (0-3), K Donaghy, D O'Sullivan. Subs: M Griffin for O'Mahony (14mins); P Galvin for Brosnan (45mins); K O'Leary for Walsh (56mins); J O'Donoghue for O'Sullivan (65mins)

Down: B McVeigh; D McKibben, B McArdle, R Boyle; R Mallon, A Carr, K Quinn; K King, K McKernan; C Laverty, M Poland, P Comiskey; D O'Hare (1-2, 1f), C Harrison (0-1), B Coulter (0-1). Subs: D O'Hagan for Carr (25mins); D Turley for Mallon (32mins); A McConville (0-1, 1f) for Harrison (45mins).

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