Defeated Down are left seeing red after Roscommon defeat
Down 0-15 Roscommon 1-17
A mystifying red card might have contributed to Down's defeat to Roscommon in the Division Two league final, but for the day that was in it, was merely another freak occurrence.
In the pre-match warm up, former captain and star playmaker Mark Poland had a ball strike him with full force that left him in difficulties with his sight. The Down medical team instantly withdrew the Longstone man and sent him off to a local hospital to be tested.
Manager Jim McCorry made some adjustments, putting in Darragh O'Hanlon and for the first half, the accident did not appear to affect the Down team as they traded tit-for-tat scores with John Evan's Roscommon side.
Brendan McArdle was sweeping for Down with Aidan Carr bravely taking on a man-marking role against the mercurial Senan Kilbride, and after 33 minutes, a combination of Carr and McArdle hustled the St Brigid's man out of possession.
McArdle held on just enough for Kilbride to be fouled after the ball spilled, and referee Maurice Deegan issued McArdle's second yellow card.
Not a single member of the press box witnessed the first booking and after the teams filed out of the dressing room, McArdle himself told waiting reporters that he had been awarded an earlier card, but felt it had been harsh.
It also flummoxed Down officials. In the post-match press conference afterwards, McCorry answered queries, saying: "Our county secretary (Sean Og McAteer) who was sitting beside us didn't see it and he normally keeps a very good track on it.
"We went down to ask the linesman and he said that he did receive a yellow card previous to that. None of us had picked it up."
After reporters expressed their surprise at the decision to award the second yellow card, McCorry added: "We thought it was soft as well. We don't like to criticise referees but I know some of the players coming off thought that some of the decisions overall were very harsh on us. We don't want to cry over spilt milk."
Up until that point, both sides had been well-matched. Down kept Conor Laverty and Donal O'Hare close to goal, looking to unsettle their markers, Neil Collins and Niall Carty respectively, with raw pace and trickery.
Laverty opened the scoring before a trio of Roscommon points from the otherwise subdued Cathal Cregg, Ciaran Murtagh - who was alive to a restart and stole in for a point - and the first of Cian Connolly's five points.
Down nosed back into it with frees from O'Hare and Paul Devlin and after McArdle's red card they sneaked back into the lead with the first half drawing to a close with a point from distance by Caolan Mooney and an O'Hare free, answered by a Donal Smith point to leave the score 0-7 each at the interval.
Kilbride clipped the second Roscommon point of the second half from close by the Hogan Stand sideline, the standout score in a run of four Roscommon points that opened up a four point gap.
Down answered with three consecutive points of their own, but the third was instantly answered when Kilbride executed a jaw-dropping solo dummy that left Carr on the floor after committing to the full-length diving block, only for Kilbride to delay clipping over.
The Mournemen could not make things stick inside and the margin drifted back out to four points when the decisive score landed.
A long ball into the Down goalmouth spread panic, and substitute Donie Shine fisted the delivery back out to the onrushing Ciaran Murtagh who dispatched his shot to the roof of the net to effectively end the match as a contest with nine minutes remaining.
This represents Roscommon's second successive promotion and league title.
Just a thought to finish. In 2010, Down were in the first year of James McCartan's reign and came down here only to be well beaten by Armagh in the Division Two final. They ended that season on the end of a one-point loss in the All-Ireland final.
McCorry will be ramming that fact home to his players for the next five weeks before their trip to play Derry in the Ulster Championship.
DOWN: S Kane; D O'Hagan, A Carr, C McGovern; G Collins, L Howard, B McArdle 0-1; P Turley P Devlin 0-1, 1f; D O'Hanlon, K McKernan 0-2, C Maginn 0-1; D O'Hare 0-5, 3f, C Laverty 0-1, C Mooney 0-1. Subs: P Fitzpatrick 0-1, for Turley (HT), R Johnston 0-1, for Devlin (47m), N Madine for Carr (60m), A McConville for Maginn (63m), J Johnston 0-1, 1f, for McKernan (66m), R Boyle for Collins (69m)
Yellow cards: B McArdle (two in first half)
Black cards: 0
Red cards: McArdle (33m for two yellows)
ROSCOMMON: D O'Malley; N Collins, N Carty, D Murray; R Stack, N Daly, C Daly; K Higgins, C Shine; D Smith 0-1, C Murtagh 1-2, 1f, C Cafferkey 0-1; C Connolly 0-5, 3f, S Kilbride 0-4, C Cregg 0-1. Subs: D Murtagh 0-1, for Smith (h-time), U Harney 0-1, for Cregg (47m), D Shine 0-1, 1f, for Connolly (55m), C Compton for C Murtagh (63m), I Kilbride for Higgins (67m).
Yellow cards: Daly (21m), C Murtagh (50m)
Black cards: D Murray (52m - replaced by B Murtagh)
Red cards: 0
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).