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Mournemen on the slide

Kingdom rule over Down as McCartan faces league drop

By John Campbell

Down 0-8 Kerry 0-14

Down's hopes of surviving in Division One of the National Football League were dealt a blow when they became victims of the other half of Munster’s ‘big two’ at Pairc Esler Newry yesterday.

Having succumbed to Cork in the last round, there was no solace for James McCartan’s men against a Kingdom side that carried more power, retained possession cleverly and exhibited a level of scoring accuracy which their hosts came nowhere near matching.

Outgunned in the midfield area for long spells, where Bryan Sheehan wielded a big influence for the winners and unable to create goal chances against a quick-tackling rearguard, Down were forced to rely on occasional breakaway scores in a bid to remain in touch.

Kerry boss Jack O’Connor afterwards expressed himself as “well satisfied” with his team’s performance, but acknowledged that they have tough tests ahead.

“I was impressed by our performance as a team and by some of our individual contributions. I am well satisfied,” said O’Connor.

“People like Bryan Sheehan, Barry John Keane and Daniel Bohane stepped up to the mark and if we can build on this effort then I think we maybe can feature in the race to the title.”

Down were unable to impose themselves at midfield and although Mark Poland, Danny Hughes and Dan Gordon worked hard, Kerry for the most part closed all scoring avenues which meant that the Mournemen garnered only five points from play in all.

Manager James McCartan admits that his side now have a lot of work to do to mount a recovery mission.

“We always knew that Kerry were going to be difficult opponents for us and we left ourselves with too much to do after the third quarter,” said McCartan.

“We have to focus on the game against Mayo next weekend and try and get something from this match although they will obviously be heartened by that win over Armagh.”

Down’s fiery tackling and voracious work-rate clearly unsettled Kerry in the early stages although the home side were never allowed to translate their territorial advantage at this stage on the scoreboard.

Instead, Kerry pulled skipper Kieran Donaghy out of their full-forward line to the middle third of the park thus allowing Patrick Curtin and James O’Donoghue to operate as a twin strike force.

The sides had been deadlocked on three occasions by the 22nd minute, Poland, Hughes and Gordon hitting the target for the home side who had shot seven wides by this stage while Keane (2) and Sheehan from a ‘45’ kept the Kingdom very much in touch.

But with Paul Galvin probing intelligently, Keane roaming with intent and the imposing Anthony Maher and man-of-the-match Sheehan making their presence felt at midfield, Kerry exerted a more authoritative grip on the contest in the 10-minute spell preceding the interval.

It was the lively Keane who nosed the visitors in front in the 30th minute and Sheehan then converted a fine free to leave them ahead by 0-5 to 0-3 at half-time.

This bout of Kerry’s finishing skills was merely the aperitif to the main dish they served up in a blistering spell from the 40th until the 51st minute.

In that brief spell — it might have seemed like an eternity to Down — Declan O’Sullivan (3), Sheehan (2) and Curtin plundered six spectacular points which effectively assured the Kingdom of victory.

Poland threw Down a lifeline with a brace of points in the 52nd and 53rd minutes while the arrival of high-profile substitutes Ambrose Rogers and Kevin McKernan temporarily enthused the crowd.

But Sheehan’s unerring free-taking ushered Kerry into a much more comfortable 0-13 to 0-8 lead.

Down’s Conor Laverty was shown what referee Damien Brazil thought was a second yellow card and then a red in the 58th minute.

The Offaly official suddenly discovered that Laverty had not been previously shown a yellow in the game so the red was quickly rescinded and he was ushered back into the fray — a rather bizarre incident which perhaps illustrated the quirky nature of the game from Down’s perspective.

But they can have no complaints about Garvey’s dismissal shortly afterwards following his ill-judged charge into O’Sullivan’s chest after he had already incurred a yellow card as early as the third minute.

Down indeed were held scoreless over the last 20 minutes, Keane embellishing his own fine input and his team’s dominance by swooping for the last score with some 12 minutes left to play — a period in which Kerry served up a reminder as just how to close out a game with limited fuss.

Down: B McVeigh; O Costello, P Turley, D McCartan; C Garvey, A Brannigan, D Turley; K King, D Gordon (0-2), D Hughes (0-1), A McConville (0-1), M Poland (0-4, 0-2 frees)); B Coulter, C Laverty, C Maginn. Subs: G McCartan for Costello (32 mins), E McCartan for Maginn (50), A Rogers for P Turley (50), B McKernan for King (61). Yellow cards: Garvey (3 mins), King (7), Poland (26), Laverty (58). Red card: Garvey (60 mins).

Kerry: B Kiely; M O Se, D Bohane, K Young, P Crowley, A O’Mahony, B Maguire, A Maher, B Sheehan (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ‘45’); P Galvin, B J Keane (0-4), Declan O’Sullivan (0-3), J O’Donoghue, K Donaghy, P Curtin (0-1). Subs: D O’Callaghan for Curtin (60 mins), D Geaney for O’Donoghue (69), S Scanlon for Maher (71), J Lyne for Maguire (71). Yellow cards: Galvin (17 mins), O’Mahony (36), Lyne (72).

Referee: Damien Brazil (Offaly).

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