Down revive their Christy Ring Cup hopes with win in Wicklow
Christy Ring Cup Group One: Wicklow 2-19 Down 2-25
DOWN returned to winning ways with a slick performance as they swept aside the challenge of Wicklow in an exciting Christy Ring Cup clash at Aughrim on Saturday.
Having lost their opening game to Derry by nine points, Down needed a victory to keep their hopes alive, while Wicklow, having beaten Donegal, were seeking two points which would have set them up for a semi-final spot. But, it was the Mourne county who bossed this game, in the process recording a highly emphatic victory.
Down manager Ronan Sheehan will be demanding further improvement as they look ahead to their next outing against Donegal on June 1.
The visitors seemed to be in charge when they led by seven points entering the final six minutes, but they allowed the Garden county side back into it when Jonathan O'Neill found the net five minutes from the end to reduce the deficit to four points. But Down somehow managed to respond in the closing minutes and a Tim Prenter goal two minutes from the end secured the victory.
''That win was a good positive to take out of here,'' said Sheehan.
''It was the type of response we needed following the Derry game, so we'll take the win look forward to our next game. ''We lost the opening game but the lads put in a really good effort and there was much improvement in the team display.''
Down were reasonably bright through the opening 15 minutes, at the end of which they led 0-8 to 0-4, after the scores had been tied at 0-3 each after eight minutes.
With Down's midfield pairing of Liam Savage and Phelim Savage winning lots of possession, Eoghan Sands, Gary Hughes, Paul Sheehan and Oisin McManus were able to utilise a quality supply of ball and score excellent points, while Christy Moorehouse points kept the home side in touch.
Twenty-three minutes in, Down suffered a real blow when centre-forward Sheehan, who was having a huge influence on proceedings, was forced to retire with a leg injury, but with Oisin McManus and Prenter picking off some excellent points, Down moved into a 0-13 to 0-8 lead.
Points from Moorehouse and Gary Hughes saw Wicklow respond, but it was Down who finished the half strongest, with McManus pointing two frees to leave his side leading 0-15 to 0-11 at the interval.
Two minutes into the second half there were hopes of a Wicklow revival. After Andy O'Brien had been fouled, Moorehouse goaled a penalty which reduced the deficit to the minimum, 0-15 to 1-11.
O'Briens 41st minute free then brought the sides level, but Down responded positively to the challenge as Oisin McManus (free) and Eoghan Sands fired over points. Five minutes later, Sands fired a great shot across the keeper into the opposite corner of the net to extend his side's lead to 1-17 to 1-12, and although O'Neill's ensured an exciting finish, the visitors were able to see the game out
Down: S Keith; T Murray, C Taggart, D Mallon; M Fisher (0-1f), J McManus, M Patterson; L Savage (0-1), P Savage; D Toner, P Sheehan (0-3, 0-2f), T Prenter (1-2); D Sands (0-1), E Sands (1-8), O McManus (0-9, 0-7f)
Subs: P J Davidson for Sheehan (inj. 23); G Hughes for Mallon (56); P Branagan for Toner (69)
Wicklow: C McNally; W Kavanagh, B Cuddihy, M O'Brien; G Byrne, S Kelly, E Kearns; J Henderson, J Doyle; E McCormack, E Byrne, R Keddy (0-1); C Moorehouse (1-5, 1-0 pen, 0-3f), D Staunton (0-3), G Hughes (0-5)
Subs: A O'Brien (0-3, 0-2f) for Byrne (22); R Byrne for Kavanagh (32. inj.), M Boland (0-1) for McCormack (50); E Donohue for Kelly (54); J O'Neill (1-1) for Moorehouse (57)
Referee: K Brady (Louth)