Mournemen must uncork last-gasp survival mission
Down 1-13 Galway 3-15
Down's flirtation with relegation has morphed into a full-scale love affair now that they have conceived a must-win tie with Cork next week-end.
For the Mournemen, this is a contest that will ask even more searching questions about their character and psyche than any game they have played to date.
As he surveyed the latest setback inflicted by a workmanlike Galway in Newry yesterday, manager Eamonn Burns was forced to admit that spurning scoring chances and defensive vulnerability have proven his side's Achilles heel in Division Two.
"We had a fairly good first-half and when they scored their two goals we managed to get one back. We could not get the second one we needed and they opened us up on the counter and pushed on from there," sighed the Down boss.
"But our fate is still in our own hands. Morale is upbeat, surprisingly, so we will dust ourselves down and have a go again next weekend."
Down certainly showed effort, courage and no little skill in staying neck and neck with Galway through the first-half and even if they did depend rather heavily on Darragh O'Hanlon to land points from frees.
The sides were level at the half-way stage (0-8 each) by which stage O'Hanlon had scooped three scores and Barry McHugh, Shane Walsh and Gary Sice had given an indication of the influence they were to wield for the visitors.
But Down's challenge effectively caved in within the space of 90 seconds.
The second-half was barely five minutes old when goalkeeper Michael Cunningham fouled Sice to concede a penalty from which Eamon Brannigan thundered the ball to the net and before it had stopped rippling man of the match Shane Walsh planted goal number two in it.
Barry O'Hagan's 48th minute goal kept the visitors in check but when Gary O'Donnell was fouled, Brannigan stepped up to sweep in Galway's third goal after substitute goalkeeper Marc Reid had parried his initial effort from the spot.
O'Hanlon potted three late frees for Down who had been unable to maximise their numerical advantage after Declan Kyne's 45th minute red card.
Indeed, just prior to O'Hanlon's last-ditch consolation mini-blitz, Galway had hit 1-4 without response. Enough said.
Down scorers: D O'Hanlon 0-08 (5f), B O'Hagan 1-00, C Mooney 0-02, R Johnston 0-02, S Millar 0-01. Galway scorers: E Brannigan 2-01 (1-0 pen), S Walsh 1-03, G Sice 0-03 (1f), B McHugh 0-03 (2f, one '45'), G O'Donnell 0-02, D Kyne 0-01, M Farragher 0-01, P Conroy 0-01 (f)
DOWN: M Cunningham; R McAleenan, B McArdle, D O'Hagan; D O'Hanlon, C McGovern, C Mooney; A Carr, P Turley; K McKernan, C Maginn, J Murphy; S Millar, B O'Hagan, R Johnston. Subs: M Reid for Cunningham (BC, 39), C Magee for Carr (47), J Johnston for Murphy (50), P Devlin for Millar (55), J Flynn for Mooney (BC, 70).
GALWAY: R Lavelle; D Wynne, D Kyne, C Sweeney; G O'Donnell, M Farragher, J Heaney; P Conroy, F O Curraoin; T Flynn, S Walsh, E Brannigan; G Sice, B McHugh, S Armstrong Subs: L Silke for Wynne (39), M Lundy for Armstrong (52), D Cummins for Walsh (68), G Bradshaw for McHugh (70), R Steede for Brannigan (70).
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)