Another dark day for Down as Kerry reign in Newry
Division One Down 0-6 Kerry 0-22
DOWN officialdom and their supporters must be cursing the day former boss Jim McCorry won promotion to Division One last season.
The vicious truth of the matter is that Down don’t belong in the top flight.
The air is too thin, the margin for error non-existent. And it’s desperately painful to watch.
Without question, Eamonn Burns is the occupier of the most unenviable job in the country.
They’ve now lost their first three games in Division One – and more will follow.
There will be more winces and pained expressions between now and April. Nobody – not even the most optimistic Down fan – gives them a chance of avoiding relegation this term.
As for Kerry, they won’t pick up an easier two League points for a long time.
Yesterday’s clash was played at challenge game pace. Down sorely lacked ideas and were too cautious in attack.
Few players wearing red and black were prepared to run at the Kerry defence, until second half substitute Ryan Mallon did exactly that and was rewarded with a consolation point in the 63rd minute.
And yet, Down started yesterday’s tie spritely. Despite falling three points behind after 10 minutes, they drew level in the 17th minute thanks to a confident score from corner-forward Barry O’Hagan who was one of the home side’s better performers.
In fact, the Mournemen could easily have edged in front but they dropped three efforts short and Connaire Harrison missed a relatively handy free in the early stages.
At the other end of the field, the Down defence had serious problems trying to contain Rathmore’s Paul Murphy at centre-forward while the movement of Kerry’s front three Darran O’Sullivan, Alan Fitzgerald and Stephen O’Brien was hugely impressive.
Kerry easily combated the home side’s sweeper system too. All it took was one well-timed run and Kerry were in on goal.
The electric Darran O’Sullivan could easily have raised a green flag in the 18th minute but opted to put the ball over the bar.
The corner-forward took the same option in the 48th minute when a goal seemed a better option.
With Kerry ahead 0-12 to 0-4 at that stage, Down were thankful for small mercies.
To compound Down’s impending woe, Sligo referee Marty Duffy awarded the visitors some very soft frees that were converted by Bryan Sheehan in the opening half.
Between them, Down duo Kevin McKernan and Conall McGovern picked up quite a bit of breaking possession but they struggled to get the ball to their key men in attack Mark Poland and Barry O’Hagan often enough.
In fact, the home side were held scoreless between the 20th and 45th minutes while Kerry tagged on five points during that period.
In first-half stoppage-time Paul Murphy fluffed a simple goal chance after an incisive break by Donnchadh Walsh.
With Kerry leading 0-9 to 0-3 at half-time they didn’t add to their lead until the 43rd minute when Sheehan arrowed a ’45 over Down’s bar.
Poland got his hands on two balls and was able to assist for Conor Maginn and Barry O’Hagan to find their range. But even the Down players knew these scores were mere consolations.
If things weren’t bad enough for Down manager Eamonn Burns he looked on forlornly as his opposite number Eamonn Fitzmaurice emptied his high quality bench.
In the 48th minute, Colm Cooper made his long-awaited return to county colours. All-Ireland winning defender Peter Crowley soon followed. Barry John Keane, Brendan O’Sullivan and Tommy Walsh came after them.
That kind of personnel summed up the gulf in class between the sides.
And Fitzmaurice must have been happy with the contribution of his substitutes. Cooper, Keane and O’Sullivan registered a combined eight points in the closing stages to ram home Kerry’s superiority.
Although they spurned three or four good goal-scoring opportunities yesterday, last year’s All-Ireland finalists showed hapless Down no mercy in the dying embers.
When Brendan O’Sullivan grabbed his first of two points from play in the 65th minute to put Kerry 0-17 to 0-6 ahead, they tagged on a further five points to completely demoralise their hosts.
It was another dark day for Down football. With a trip to in-form Roscommon to come, Down’s woes look set to continue while Kerry will have a spring in their step ahead of welcoming Donegal to town next weekend.
Down: M Cunningham; L Howard, G McGovern, D O’Hagan; C McGovern, A Carr, D O’Hanlon; P Turley, M McKay; J Murphy, M Poland, K McKernan; C Maginn (0-1), C Harrison (0-2 frees), B O’Hagan (0-2)
Subs: J Flynn for A Carr (27), R Mallon (0-1) for J Murphy (37), R Boyle for L Howard (41), M Magee for D O’Hagan (41), H Brown for
P Turley (53), D O’Hare for B O’Hagan (57)
Yellow cards: J Murphy (28) M Poland (35)
Kerry: B Kealy; M O Se, M Griffin, S Enright; P O’Connor, A O’Mahony, F Fitzgerald; K Donaghy, B Sheehan (0-6, 0-2 frees, 0-2 ‘45); A Walsh, P Murphy, D Walsh;
D O’Sullivan (0-4), A Fitzgerald (0-3, 0-2 free), S O’Brien (0-1)
Subs: C Cooper (0-3, 0-2 frees) for A Walsh (48), P Crowley for P O’Connor (48), BJ Keane (0-3, 0-1 free) for P Kilkenny for M O Se (60), T Walsh for K Donaghy (63), B O’Sullivan (0-2) for D Walsh (64)
Yellow cards: F Fitzgerald (49)
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo)