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No home comfort as Mourne county falter

By John Campbell

Down's marked inability to maximise home advantage in Division Two of the Allianz Football League could yet see them sacrifice their prospects of promotion to the top tier.

Last time out at Pairc Esler, Newry it was a fired-up Cork who threw a spanner into the Mourne county's works and yesterday a gutsy, tenacious Clare departed with maximum points after the impressive Eoin Cleary had done most to tarnish the hosts' reputation.

Seven points in all flowed from his educated boot in his team's hard-earned 1-12 to 1-10 win, a statistic that was in rather sharp contrast to the 15 wides that Down racked up, some indeed from eminently scorable positions.

Darragh O'Hanlon's failure to elicit maximum dividend from a penalty - he settled for a point - did not help Down's cause nor did the fact that their discipline left something to be desired on occasions.

While Down hover close to the relegation zone, Fermanagh appear to be striding into Division Two after a fourth straight win in which struggling Derry became their latest victims.

Rory Gallagher's side may have been culpable of several errors as Derry mounted a comeback but the positivity which the former Donegal boss appears to have installed in his new charges stood to them as they chiselled out a 1-16 to 3-8 win over an Oak Leaf outfit that must still face into relegation concerns.

Fermanagh looked to have taken a vice-like grip on the game when they led by 1-10 to 0-1 at one stage before goals from Derry's experienced trio of Emmett Bradley, Mark Lynch and James Kielt hauled Damian McErlain's side back into the contest when it looked as if they were on the point of surrender.

Seamus Quigley scored 1-7 for Fermanagh and had plenty of support from those around him while manager Gallagher derived considerable satisfaction from the win although with one reservation.

"We gave away the goals too easily and obviously Derry got a lift from those scores but at the end of the day I would have to say I am happy with the way in which we played," said Gallagher.

Like Fermanagh, Armagh are looking brisk and business-like although they were expected to see off the challenge of Offaly with rather more conviction.

As it was, they had to be content with a 1-15 to 1-9 win, but manager Kieran McGeeney will nonetheless be happy with this as it keeps his side neck-and neck with Fermanagh at the top of the table.

Armagh have still to face Ulster rivals Fermanagh and Derry and these matches will certainly add spice to the concluding phase of the league.

Antrim, meanwhile, continued their quest for a place in Division Three by getting the better of London (0-17 to 0-13) at Ruislip to maintain their unbeaten record.

Saffrons' boss Lenny Harbinson, happy with his team's progress, had intimated in advance that it would be a tough proposition and this is indeed how it turned out at the end of the day.

Belfast Telegraph

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