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NFL Division Two: Down’s hopes go up in smoke yet again

Dublin 2-10 Down 0-13: So near yet so far for Down. This time last year it was Armagh who deprived James McCartan’s side of the Division Two title at Croke Park and now Dublin have effectively torpedoed their chances of making it into the league final proper this year.

The Hawk-Eye score detection mechanism may have been in vogue for the first time at Headquarters — in front of 35,264 fans — but from Down’s perspective it was sadly not required to determine the authenticity of Alan Brogan’s late, late goal that ultimately stamped Dublin’s passport into the final.

“We were ambushed in the end,” reflected manager McCartan.

“When a team can bring on the Player of the Year as a substitute you know that you are competing against real class. Bernard Brogan scored a point and made the goal for his brother all in injury time — enough said.”

Holding a tantalising 0-13 to |1-9 lead as the seconds ticked away to the end of normal time, Down looked to have the composure, drive and stamina to carry them over the line.

But Dublin’s late infusion of star quality combined with Kalum King’s wretched luck in suffering a rare mishandling error combined to give Pat Gilroy’s side a win that had looked beyond them.

“We had competed very well for most of the game. Going into injury-time there was a chance that we could have held on but you cannot legislate for what happened,” observed McCartan.

Even Paul Flynn’s clinical 10th minute goal had failed to unhinge Down’s first-half fluency.

The teams were level at the interval — 1-5 to 0-8.

The impressive Martin Clarke galvanised Down when he converted frees either side of a superb Conor Maginn point from play to nose his side in front 0-13 to 1-9.

But the sheer artistry of Bernard Brogan and the opportunism of his brother Alan ultimately demolished Down’s ambition of a Headquarters coup.

Dublin: S Cluxton; P McMahon, P Brogan, N Devereux; K Nolan, G Brennan, D Nelson; D Bastick, B Cahill (0-1); P Flynn (1-1), K McManamon, B Cullen (0-1); A Brogan (1-1), D Connolly (0-1), T Quinn (0-4, 0-3 frees). Subs: Subs: B Brogan (0-1) for McManamon and MD McAuley for Cahill (both 42 mins), P Andrews for Cullen (59), P Burke for Quinn (69) , D Kelly for Flynn (70).

Down: B McVeigh; G McCartan, D Gordon, B McArdle; C Garvey, K McKernan (0-1), D Rooney; P Fitzpatrick (0-1), K King; D Hughes (0-2), M Poland (0-1), C Maginn (0-1); P McComiskey (0-2), B Coulter (0-2), M Clarke (0-3, all frees). Subs: D McCartan for McArdle (40 mins), D Alder for McVeigh (46), J Colgan for Fitzpatrick, R Murtagh for McComiskey (both 52), E McCartan for Poland (59).

Referee: Syl Doyle (Wexford).

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