Cory Quinn double sinks Offaly as Down rise to top of Division Three
Allianz Football League Division Three: Down 2-12 Offaly 0-10
TWO goals from Mayobridge youngster Cory Quinn were among the highlights as resurgent Down moved to the top of Division Three and the brink of promotion with two games to go.
The Mournemen looked well-drilled and were full of running, particularly in the second half when they moved the ball with purpose against the wind. Experienced campaigners like Darren O’Hagan, playmaking sweeper Kevin McKernan and Donal O’Hare were outstanding on the night and the performances of Quinn and a clutch of emerging players including Rory Burns, Pierce Laverty, Colm Flanagan, Ceilum Doherty and Ruairi Wells (at the centre of a defence that kept it’s third clean sheet in succession) will have given Mourne fans confidence as their men head down the home straight.
Carlow’s win over league leaders Louth left Paddy Tally’s side two points clear at the top of the table so a Down victory in Carlow in a fortnight and defeats for Louth and Laois will guarantee promotion for the Mournemen.
“I’m very happy tonight, very happy with the second half performance,” said manager Tally.
“We weren’t delighted at half-time, I thought we played poorly and we seemed to be thinking that the wind would do the job for us without playing but in the second half we looked much more composed.
“All we can do is look after ourselves, the other results don’t really matter. We needed to make sure we got our win and the way things have worked out we’re sitting in a good position now.”
There were contrasting emotions in the visitors’ dressingroom because Tally’s opposite number John Maughan now has a fight on his hands to keep Offaly in Division Three. The Faithful County are now second-from-bottom and in real danger of slipping into the bottom tier.
“We were in a good position at half-time and we went out for the second half wind-assisted and two points down and we thought we’d have a great chance,” he said.
“But Down were sharper and better and very quick and pacey. It’s very disappointing from our perspective, we are disappointed to have collapsed the way we did.”
Offaly set up with two sweepers but skipper O’Hagan set the early tempo for the Mournemen when he steamed into space to kick the opener after three minutes.
Parity was restored with the first of four first half frees from Bernard Allen, who rotated with Anton Sullivan and Ruairi McNamee in Offaly’s two-man inside forward line.
Then Johnny Flynn won a breaking ball in midfield and another O’Hagan burst created an opportunity for Jerome Johnston who swept the ball over the bar. Mooney made it 3-1 but Allen’s free and a quickfire double from Shane Horan briefly sent the Faithful county into the lead.
Down were back on terms when O’Hare sent a defender sprawling with a neat dummy and then stroked a swerving shot over the bar that pinged off the upright for dramatic effect on its way.
The Mournemen should have had a goal when Jerome Johnston’s mishit shot bounced over Offaly goalkeeper Paddy Dunican but Daniel Guinness took the wrong option at the far post. He palmed the ball off the upright, but grabbed the rebound and laid it off to Ryan Johnston whose shot was blocked by Paul McConway.
Down keeper Burns clipped the 45 over the bar and McKernan, Caolan Mooney and an O’Hare free had the home side 8-5 in front before Allen left two in it at the break with another free.
The Mournemen, who kicked six wides with the elements in their favour, were out first for the second half and they began it with another off-target effort, from the industrious Conor Poland.
Peter Cunningham landed a free for Offaly after the ball, not for the first time, had been moved forward for Down dissent, but the men in red and black found their rhythm and their running game clicked into gear against the wind.
The home side’s decision making – when to hold the ball and when to move it forward quickly – was excellent and O’Hare added two points before Quinn, who settled quickly after replacing Flynn during the first half, took a pass from Guinness, side-stepped Dunican and found the net to finish a sweeping move that had started with Down goalkeeper Burns.
O’Hare added a free to give the home side a double-scores lead and Offaly never looked like getting back into the game. Maughan threw Conor Carroll up to the edge of the square but the Down defence coped comfortably with anything Offaly could muster.
Another rookie, Owen McCabe from Carryduff, was introduced into midfield in the closing stages. Down had struggled to win clean ball from their kick-outs but he took two marks and the second one was worked forward to Quinn who lashed his foot shot past Dunican.
It was an emphatic note to end on and it should send Down to Carlow in high spirits on Sunday week.
Down: R Burns (0-1 45); G Collins, R Wells, R McAleenan; P Laverty, C Flanagan, D O’Hagan (0-1); C Mooney (0-2), J Flynn, D Guinness, C Poland, R Johnston; J Johnston (0-1), D O’Hare (0-6, 0-4 frees), K McKernan (0-1)
Subs: C Quinn (2-0) for Flynn (25), C Maginn for Collins (44), C Doherty for J Johnston (55), O McCabe for Ryan Johnston (67), D McKibbin for Laverty (69)
Yellow cards: Poland (35), J Johnston (ht)
Offaly: P Dunican; D Hogan, E Rigney, D Dempsey; C Donohoe, J Moloney, P McConway; E Carroll, C Mangan; S Horan (0-2), P Cunningham (0-1 free), N Darby; B Allen (0-6 frees), A Sullivan, R McNamee
Subs: N McNamee (0-1) for Horan (40), S Tierney for R McNamee (55), C Carroll for Donohoe (61), D Molloy for E Carroll (61), N Bracken for Mangan (69)
Yellow cards: Sullivan (35), Rigney (ht)
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)