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Magee steps into the spotlight as Down get off on right foot

Down 1-11 Queen's University 1-8

By John Campbell

It took Down just over 70 minutes yesterday to go some way towards erasing the hurt triggered by a painful statistic compiled over the entire course of 2016.

In that period, the Mourne county recorded just one competitive victory, so it was no surprise that this hard-earned early-season bonus at Downpatrick triggered more relief than delight.

Certainly manager Eamonn Burns, weighed down for the most part by anxiety and disappointment last term, offered a rather more cheery disposition on this occasion.

"There were a lot of positives to be taken from this game and of course a win is a win," mused Burns, "We looked very comfortable half-way through the second half but then Queen's came at us.

"They put a few good moves together and scored a goal as well but we managed to see the game out successfully so this was satisfying."

"There were quite a few debutants involved and I thought Cathal Magee and Shay Millar showed up very well in the half-forward line while Ryan McAleenan and Gary McMahon, both of whom are from the Warrenpoint club, looked good in defence. We still have players to come back, of course."

Former Down ace James McCartan manages a Queen's side that displayed a sharp work ethic and no little skill in containing their hosts until the third quarter and even when they looked to have run aground at 1-9 to 0-4, they still unleashed a ration of resilience and pluck that kept Down on their toes right to the finish.

Alan Davidson proved a thorn in the side of the Mourne defence in the first half and when he complemented three earlier points with a polished goal from a 34th minute penalty, he had made a major contribution to Queen's 1-5 to 0-4 interval lead.

Martin Clarke, who has distinguished himself in the Down colours in the past, was at the heart of Queen's attacking strategy and his point along with a brace from Conor McGrady and another from Donegal county star Martin O'Reilly helped the students stay in touch.

But when man of the match Cathal Magee imposed his authority after the break, Down streaked clear, the Mayobridge player's three scores seemingly having ushered them into the comfort zone.

Queen's, though, grabbed a late goal through Donal McKeever and were still breathing down their opponents' necks at the finish.

They might well have ultimately enjoyed gained parity, indeed, if Down goalkeeper McMahon had not made a superb reflex save in the 70th minute to deflect substitute Sean Fox's goal-bound drive over the bar.

Cavan referee Maggie Farrelly imposed her authority throughout and served duo Joe Murphy and Jonathan Flynn with black cards.

Down: G McMahon; R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O'Hagan; D McKibbon, C McGovern, C Mooney; A Carr, J Flynn 0-1; J Murphy, C Magee 0-4 (2f), S Miller; A Davidson 1-4 (1-0 pen), B O'Hagan 0-1, D Savage 0-1 (f). Subs: R Mallon for Murphy (Black card 10 mins), Haveron for Savage (42), B McArdle for Mooney (48), C Maginn for Miller (50), P Turley for Carr (63), D Turley for O'Hagan (63). Yellow cards: McKibbon (29), O'Hagan (55) Black card: Flynn 74 (No sub as quota already used).

Queen's: C Mullan Young; N Keenan, A Doherty, F Quinn; S Heffron, J McMahon, D McKeever 1-0; C McCartan, J Dowling; G Rushe, M Clarke, 0-2 (2f), A Morgan; M O'Reilly 0-2; C McGrady 0-2 (1f), C Harney. Subs: R Campbell for Morgan, C Francis 0-1 for Dowling (both half-time), A McClements for McGrady (46), B McCann for Doherty (52), S Fox 0-1 for Harney, (62), A Fegan for Keenan (64). Yellow card: Clarke (15).

Referee: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan)

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