GAA Football

Connaire Harrison blitz sees Down past Louth in Division Two opener

Down's Connaire Harrison takes on the Louth defence in Sunday's win in Drigheda

Allianz Football League Division Two: Louth 0-11 Down 1-14

A FIVE-minute scoring spree from Connaire Harrison that yielded 1-2 decided this game and got Down off to an encouraging start in Division Two yesterday.

The Mournemen, who host Cork next weekend, led by three point at half-time in Drogheda and had stretched their advantage to six by the time Louth awoke from their slumber to make a game of it.

Four points in as many minutes had left the match in the melting pot before Harrison illustrated the value of having a quality forward in your side with a clinical salvo that saw Down canter home to a six-point victory.

Afterwards Mourne boss Eamonn Burns was able to reflect on a good afternoon’s work for his side. 

Colm Flanagan, Conor Poland, Anthony Doherty and Aaron Morgan all made eye-catching League debuts. Meanwhile, Donal O’Hare and Darren O’Hagan returned to the fray and tried-and-trusted regulars like Niall McParland, Darragh O’Hanlon, Kevin McKernan and Caolan Mooney proved their appetite for a battle once again.

“It’s nice to start with a win,” said Burns, who was up against his former mentor Pete McGrath in his first League game as Louth boss.

“It gets the ball rolling for us and it’s good to pick up points on the road away from home. It was a tough game, the wind and the weather didn’t held and they made it tough for both teams.

“In the second half we used the ball and controlled the ball very, very well. We created openings and took scores at important times.”

There was a first-game-of-the-season feel to the match in the opening half.

Under a slate grey sky Louth started better on the spongy surface and opened up a two-point lead thanks to a brace of frees from debutant William Woods before Down got to grips with the conditions.

The Mournemen had a roaring gale at their backs but their kick-passing was poor and when the ball did find full-forward pair Harrison and Sean Dornan they struggled to hold on to it.

But with their defence working hard to blunt Louth’s over-elaborate attacks and win back possession, their first score came when Niall Donnelly found space in opposition territory, took Morgan’s pass and spilt the uprights with a right foot shot.

Poland, Harrison and Mooney were all involved in the passing movement that saw debutant Morgan swing over the equaliser off his left boot after 16 minutes and points from Mooney and Shay Millar left Down two ahead before Woods pulled one back for Louth.

Darragh O’Hanlon clipped over a free and Tommy Durnin’s point was immediately cancelled out by Kilcoo clubmate Morgan’s second of the game. Harrison tagged on another and Down led by three, 0-7 to 0-4, at the break without ever finding any fluency in the difficult conditions.

Louth had wind advantage for the second period and the question was whether Down’s three-point lead would be enough.

Donal O’Hare – a half-time substitute – came close to doubling Down’s advantage in the first play of the half, but his shot was well saved by Craig Lynch.

Durnin punched the air in celebration after he landed the first score of the half but Louth’s rally failed to materialize and Down, who had also introduced McKernan, were calm in possession and full of running. 

When O’Hare seized on a poor kick-out, dummied on his left foot and smashed over a shot with his right, the visitors were six clear with 10 minutes to go and looking home and hosed.

But Louth fought back and points from Woods, skipper Andy McDonnell, Derek Maguire and Woods again left just two in it.

With the Wee county in control at midfield, Down were trapped in their own half but they crucially managed to break the next kick-out and Poland swept up the loose ball and found Harrison who fired over a point to settle his side’s nerves.

Louth ’keeper Lynch went short from the kick-out, Glassdrumman attacker Harrison read it and bagged another point, this time left-footed.

The home side tried to stay in the fight but Harrison killed them off once and for all when he held off Emmet Carolan to take McKernan’s 30-yard pass into the square. He mis-kicked his first effort but buried the second and that was that.

“We woke up, got back to within two points and had them on their backs,” said Louth manager McGrath.

“The next kick-out, we almost had it but it just squirmed away and they got it and got the point. A poor
kick-out gifted them another point and it was always going to be difficult after that.”

Louth: C Lynch; J Bingham, E Carolan, J Craven; D Marks, B Duffy, A Williams; T Durnin (0-2), A McDonnell (0-1); D Maguire (0-2), J McEneaney, G McSorley; D Byrne, C McKeever, W Woods (0-6, 0-5 frees)

Subs: J Stewart for McKeever (34), Grimes for Stewart (55), R Holcroft for Byrne (57)

Yellow cards: Duffy (14), Woods (36), Williams (54), T McAnaney for McSorley (67)

Down: S Harrison; C Flanagan, G McGovern, B McArdle; D O’Hanlon (0-3 frees), N McParland, A Doherty; C Poland, N Donnelly (0-1); S Millar (0-1), C Maginn, C Mooney (0-2); S Dornan, C Harrison (1-3), A Morgan (0-2)

Subs: D O’Hare (0-1) for Dornan (ht), K McKernan (0-1) for Maginn (41), D O’Hagan for Doherty (45), D McKibbin for Donnelly (49)

Yellow cards: Morgan (8), O’Hanlon (54)

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)

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