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Johnston is set for family feud as Down march ahead

Down 1-14 - Roscommon 1-07

By John Martin

Down hurling boss Mickey Johnston laughed, "It'll be some craic round the dinner table!" after his side's seven-point win over Roscommon at Ballycran. It was a victory that set up an all-Ulster Christy Ring Cup semi-final against Antrim - and a father against sons battle for a place in the Croke Park decider.

Mickey's sons Ciaran and Conor are in the Saffrons squad that will face the Mournemen in Saturday's semi-final so an interesting few days lie ahead in the Johnston household.

"We had a fair idea how Roscommon would set themselves. I've managed against them before, it was fairly direct hurling. We were happy enough when they were putting it up as it was 50-50 ball for us," said former Armagh boss Johnston.

"Last week we didn't have the bench, with injuries and guys not being able to get the time off work, but we knew we would be using the right men at the right time here. We kept Roscommon guessing. Part of our plan was to move their full back line about and it worked for us. To be fair we hit an inordinate amount of wides in the second-half and we'll have to look at that for the next game."

Though Antrim will be favourites, Down will not be short in confidence after a convincing win over the highly-fancied Roscommon. After a tight first-half, Down led 0-7 to 0-6, but they bossed the second period and outscored their visitors by 1-7 to 1-1 after the restart.

Wayward shooting from the Mournemen saw four shots tail wide in the opening five minutes and it was Roscommon stalwart Jerry Fallon who opened the scoring for the visitors. The rest of the opening half was nip and tuck during which the sides were level six times.

Oisin McManus was the first Down scorer with Conor Mageean putting the home side ahead for the first time. Down midfielder Danny Toner was proving the main playmaker for the home side with Micheal Kelly the pick of the Rossies.

Donal Hughes' point on the half hour mark tied the scores at 0-5 apiece with Ballygalget clubman Brook Byers and Cathal Dolan swapping points as the short whistle approached. Impressive substitute Scott Nicholson, however, fired over a late point from play to put Down into a half-time lead. Jamie Lawlor tied the scores once more with Roscommon's seventh point of the day but a run of seven unanswered scores secured Down's place in the semi-final. Byers then added his second, with points from Nicholson and Chris Egan sandwiched between two Conor O'Prey frees.

Mageean and Conor Woods resumed scoring duties for a 0-14 to 0-7 lead by the 65th minute.

Roscommon substitute Naos Connaughton fired past Stephen Keith between the Down posts. But that was as good as it got for Roscommon and Toner got the goal his performance deserved.

Down: S Keith; S Ennis, P Flynn, J McManus; J McGrath, C Taggart, F Conway; D Toner (1-0), C Woods (0-1f); C Mageean (0-2), D Hughes (0-1), A O'Prey; B Byers (0-2), C O'Prey (0-4f), O McManus (0-1)

Subs: S Nicholson (0-2) for O McManus (ht), C Egan (0-1) for B Byers (48), C O'Neill for C O'Prey (55), J Doran for D Hughes (70)

Roscommon: N Fallon; I Delaney, P Kellahan, L Kilcline; A Moore, M Kelly, S Curley; E Flanagan (0-1), C Dolan (0-1); T Seale (0-1), T Fetherston, J Fallon (0-2, 1f); C Egan, J Lawlor (0-2), A Murphy

Subs: G Keenan for T Seale (49), C Mulry for A Murphy (49), N Connaughton (1-0) for J Fallon (52), H Rooney for C Egan (60)

Referee: D Hughes (Carlow)

Belfast Telegraph


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