Down rising and Carlow raging as Donal O'Hare point seals win for Mournemen at Dr Cullen Park
Allianz National Football League Division Three: Carlow 1-11 Down 0-15
From Andy Watters at Netwatch Cullen Park
RED mist descended on Dr Cullen Park at the final whistle but that mattered not a jot to Down who took the two points thanks to Donal O’Hare’s superb injury-time winner.
The result was tough on Carlow who were level on 70 minutes and again in injury-time, but all a glance at the Division Three table will tell you is that beating Louth in Newry next Sunday will send Down back up to Division Two and, depending on other results, less may suffice.
As Down celebrated, Carlow fumed. A draw would have ensured their survival but now they need a result against promotion-chasing Laois or a Sligo win against Offaly to avoid relegation.
Considering it took the Barrowsiders 33 years to get out of Division Four, their emotions were understandable and, amid suggestions of bias against smaller counties, referee James Bermingham, also the official in their loss to Offaly, was the focus of Carlow’s anger.
The Cork whistler dished out 17 cards (14 yellows and three reds) and was one of the central characters of a game that was regularly scrappy but never genuinely dirty.
In difficult, damp conditions and with a lot of the action compressed between the sides’ 21 and 45-yard lines, his draconian style left Carlow manager Turlough O’Brien livid.
It was hard not to have sympathy for O’Brien who refused requests for post-match interviews. A passionate Carlow man, he let his emotions get the better of him and left Bermingham in no doubt of his views as the referee ducked down the Cullen Park tunnel flanked by stewards at the final whistle.
The referee had been sore on the home side but he was also sore on the visitors who had Paul Devlin and Kevin McKernan sent off (both for second bookings) and six other players yellow-carded.
“A couple of times towards the end it looked as if there were players falling quite easily and frees were being given and that frustrated both ourselves and the Carlow management,” said Down manager Paddy Tally.
“It wasn’t an overly dirty game, it was played in a good enough spirit and none of the team got involved in anything off the ball. Some of the free kicks were quite lenient and some of the yellow cards were uncalled for.”
Tally was delighted with the battling qualities his side exhibited once again. They led by three points four minutes from time when Eoghan Ruth’s well taken goal leveled it but refused to settle for a point and forced the win thanks to a mixture of grit and footballing quality.
“It really went to the wire and I think the boys showed a lot of composure to win that because it was a game that could have went either way,” said Tally.
“We didn’t play particularly well, we just had to fight it out and battle for it and we got the result which we’re delighted with.”
He added: “It was a very tough game, Carlow are a very well organized team.
“It was always going to be tough coming down here and we knew that. We knew what was going to happen but we didn’t play well enough to deal with it and that required us to stick in there and that has been a theme of this team this year. They are refusing to be beaten and that’s very positive.”
Tally started with Jerome Johnston and Connaire Harrison as an inside forward line while Carlow set their stall out and left just Conor Crowley up front.
The Barrowsiders packed the space between their 21 and 45-yard lines but Down ran at them in packs and Johnny Flynn had found Donal O’Hare for their opener before Daniel Guinness found a pocket of space for the second.
Pierce Laverty had a glimpse of goal but opted to pass and the chance was lost but Down continued to dominate and Carlow couldn’t handle their runners. Donal O’Hare slotted over two frees and the Ulstermen led 0-4 to 0-1 after 15 minutes.
Suddenly the wind whipped up behind Carlow and they put more pressure on the ball as Down’s rhythm completely deserted them and they failed to score again in the half.
Brendan Murphy briefly moved up to full-forward and pulled a point back and the visitors couldn’t break lines, took the wrong options and conceded frees almost every time Carlow counterattacked into their territory. Darragh Foley kicked five excellent frees on-the-trot to send his side into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead and Tally must have been delighted to hear the half-time whistle.
The Down manager had already made a substitution in the first half and he made two more at the break when Ceilum Doherty and Paul Devlin were introduced.
The Kilcoo pair were involved as Conor Poland made ground down the left to fire over the first score of the second half and points from O’Hare, Darren O’Hagan and Ryan Johnston followed as Down regained the lead.
Devlin had extended his second half tally to four and left Down 0-13 to 0-10 ahead with the finish in sight when he was sent off for a second booking and, in the next play, Ruth grabbed a punt into the square, bulldozed through the Down rearguard and beat Burns with a right foot finish to level it.
The game went into injury-time and Caolan Mooney, immense in the closing stages, put Down back in front under pressure and tempers began to boil over as Carlow boss O’Brien went onto the pitch to protest as a decision went against his side.
Carlow full-back Shane Redmond followed Devlin to the sideline and Kevin McKernan was next to go when he picked up a second booking for a foul on Sean Gannon. Walshe took the free and it was adjudged to have split the posts by an uncertain umpire.
A draw would have been fair but Mooney won the ball, beat his marker and found Jerome Johnston who went to ground after contact was made. Referee Bermingham did what he had done throughout the game - he blew his whistle and pointed towards the opposition posts.
O’Hare landed the free and time ran out on the Barrowsiders as they went in search of an equalizer. It was too much for O’Brien and he and several Carlow players and fans ran to confront the referee as he hastily made his way to the sanctuary of his dressingroom.
It was an anarchic finish to an anarchic game and Down are on the brink with one to play.
Carlow: R Sansom; Chris Crowley, S Redmond, C Lawlor; B Kavanagh, E Ruth (1-0), C Moran; B Murphy (0-1), S Murphy; J Morrissey (0-1), S Gannon, D O’Brien; Conor Crowley, D Foley (0-7 frees), D St Ledger
Subs: S Clarke for Kavanagh (50), D Walshe (0-2 frees) for Conor Crowley (50), C Doyle for O’Brien (58)
Yellow cards: B Murphy (19), D St Ledger (29), Chris Crowley (40), Gannon (54)
Down: R Burns; K McKernan, R Wells, R McAleenan; P Laverty, C Flanagan, D O’Hagan (0-1); J Flynn, C Mooney (0-1); D Guinness (0-1), C Poland (0-2), C Maginn; J Johnston, C Harrison, D O’Hare (0-6, 0-5 frees)
Subs: R Johnston for Laverty (29), C Doherty for Guinness (HT), P Devlin (0-4, 0-3 frees) for Maginn (HT), B McArdle for Flanagan (44), B O’Hagan for R Johnston (53)
Yellow cards: Maginn (14), Poland (32), Flanagan (32), R Johnston (35), Devlin (53&60), McKernan (58&73), Harrison (62), Flynn (63)
Red cards: Devlin (60), McKernan (73)
Referee: J Bermingham (Cork)