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Down had to rely on true grit to come through: Tally

Down 0-14 Derry 0-12

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Six appeal: Donal O’Hare’s accuracy from frees underpinned Down’s win

Six appeal: Donal O’Hare’s accuracy from frees underpinned Down’s win

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Six appeal: Donal O’Hare’s accuracy from frees underpinned Down’s win

Sometimes the more earthy virtues of tenacity, resilience and courage as opposed to the silken assets of finesse, poise and artistry can nonetheless suffice to lead a team to their intended destination.

If Down manager Paddy Tally required any reminder that his side is liberally imbued with the sporting equivalent of tradesmen's tools, then it was emphatically delivered in this stunning eclipse of Derry accompanied by confirmation that they are not exactly lacking in the finer rudiments of the game.

No wonder Tally, whose CV has gone from strength to strength since he trained the Tyrone side that won the county's first All-Ireland title in 2003, afterwards permitted himself a quiet smile of satisfaction as he inhaled a performance that was rich in character and high on industry.

"I honestly thought that the second half in particular was superb," opined Tally.

"The quality of the scores, the quality of the play overall were exceptional in a game in which every single ball mattered.

"It was in essence a game of nerve towards the end and we were fortunate enough on this occasion to pass the test with true grit when it mattered in that tense closing stage."

Down's staying power, application and sheer guts were such that Rory Gallagher's side were left floundering in their slipstream over the final furlong with the home crowd clearly bewitched by all the unfolding drama.

"We know what it is like ourselves to put in a big performance and get nothing out of it and you have to feel for Derry on this occasion because they played really, really well but we just managed to hold out," added Tally.

"The players are constantly hearing about relegation and Tier Two and all of that and this brings its own pressure, but all you can do is take each game as it comes and now we are away to Cork next weekend and it won't get much tougher than that."

When Shane McGuigan embarked on his seven-point haul for Derry in the first minute, it looked as if the Oak Leaf side were about to take command but by half-time they held a tenuous 0-8 to 0-7 lead with McGuigan compiling half of that total and Donal O'Hare registering three Down points from frees.

With McGuigan remaining in a lead role supported by Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers and Ciaran McFaul in particular, Derry once again flattered to deceive in establishing a 0-11 to 0-9 lead only to land just one more point as Down in contrast racked up five in the last 10 minutes.

O'Hare sparked his side's spectacular recovery with his fifth point from a free, substitute Daniel Guinness hit the target in the 64th minute, Barry O'Hagan added another and then Jerome Johnston lifted the roof with a thunderous point from far out on the wing that piloted his side into an unlikely 0-13 to 0-11 lead. Chrissy Bradley reduced the deficit for Derry but there was simply no stopping Down and the ever-accurate O'Hare made it the round half-dozen from placed balls when he swung over a 72nd-minute insurance score that cemented the Mournemen's haul of three precious points from their first two league outings - a tasty starter with the main course still to come.

Down: R Burns; D O'Hagan, B McArdle, R McAleenan; G Collins, K McKernan, S Annett; J Flynn, C Poland 0-1; B O'Hagan 0-2, P Devlin, J Johnston 0-2; O McCabe 0-1, D O'Hare 0-6 (6f), C Quinn 0-1. Subs: L Kerr for Devlin (42), P Havern for Quinn (47), P Hagan for McAleenan (50), D Guinness 0-1 for Collins (54), Yellow cards: McAleenan (30), Quinn (39), McCabe (58), Black card: Poland (61), O'Hagan (70).

Derry: O Lynch; C McCluskey, P McGrogan, L McGoldrick: B Rogers, C McKaigue 0-1, N Keenan; P Cassidy, E Bradley; S Downey 0-1, D Tallon, C McFaul; B Heron 0-1, S McGuigan 0-7(4f) , A Doherty 0-1. Subs: N Toner for Heron (49), R Bell for Doherty (54), C Doherty for McCluskey (56), C Bradley 0-1 for Keenan (66), G O'Neill for Downey (68). Yellow card: McGrogan (52).

Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).


Belfast Telegraph