Down fluff their lines against Offaly on their way to fourth consecutive win

Mournemen maintain perfect start to Division Three but manager Laverty frustrated at second half show

Down's Liam Kerr celebrates Downs first goal during  the GAA Allianz Football  Division Three Round Four game between Down and Offaly  at Páirc Esler, Newry 0n 02-24-2024
Liam Kerr celebrates scoring Down's first goal during the Allianz Football League Division Three game between Down and Offaly at Páirc Esler Picture: Philip Walsh
Allianz Football League Division Three: Down 4-12 Offaly 2-14

A fourth consecutive win, a handsome 4-12 total and promotion to Division Two now within touching distance, Down’s Division Three campaign has largely been going to script this season.

However, it was the Down team going “off script” in the third quarter of their home clash with Offaly at a chilly Páirc Esler on Saturday night that frustrated manager Conor Laverty

The Mournemen shipped 2-14 against winless Offaly, the majority of it after the 50 minute mark when they looked to have assumed complete control of the game.

A bright start to the second half, when 1-2 was reeled off inside the opening 10 minutes had the Division Three leaders in total control.

Points from Danny Magill and half-time substitute Ryan Johnston were followed by a goal drilled low to the net by Odhran Murdock on 42 minutes.

That triggered a mad eight-minute spell which saw three more goals, but it could have been more.

Down had a third goal on 50 minutes when Murdock offloaded to Burren club-mate Liam Kerr who whipped a left foot shot off the underside of the bar and into the net.

Offaly responded with a goal through Jack Bryant and could have had second when Cathal Flynn sliced through the Down defence but his shot flashed wide.

Ryan Johnston showed him how to do it minutes later when got on the end of a sweeping Down move to fire home a fourth goal for the home side.

Daniel Guinness had the ball in the net, but that was ruled out for overcarrying before and and incisive run by Offaly’s Keith O’Neill saw him finish to the net.

“I just think we switched off. Whenever we got the 10 points ahead, we just switched off and probably just went off script and started making too many individual errors,” Laverty said.

“I think it was 50 minutes where the game was 3-9 to eight points and I felt we were in a decent position and then I think we just switched off and got very lack lustre in our performance.

“Overall, we probably wouldn’t be happy with our performance.

“We knew this was going to be a tough task. Offaly are fighting for their live and probably are hard-down by being on no points. They’ve put in some good performances.

“So we knew it was going to be a battle, but still, to our own standards, and our own standard line, we would probably have been below that.”

The return of Johnston was a definite plus, the Kilcoo man grabbing a goal, but brother Sheelan once again missed out and Laverty revealed a knock had set him back “a week or two”.

There was also concern over Caolan Mooney who - having made his first Down start in almost two years in last week’s win over Antrim - lasted just 42 minutes before going off injured as the Mourne medical staff await a scan to assess the extent.

Offaly’s approach was clear from the start - sit deep and try to hit Down on the break with their pace. It paid off early as they plundered the first two points of the game, the first a spurned goal chance for Jordan Hayes and the second owing to a blistering burst from former U20 captain Cormac Egan.

Down didn’t panic, though and were soon on level terms before Liam Kerr’s seventh minute goal, after Daniel Guinness looked to have been hauled back, put them into the lead.

Down's Conor Laverty at the start of the GAA Allianz Football  Division Three Round Four game between Down and Offaly  at Páirc Esler, Newry 0n 02-24-2024
Down manager Conor Laverty at the Allianz Football League Division Three Round Four game between Down and Offaly at Páirc Esler Picture: Philip Walsh

Lee Pearson’s probing run and shot on goal, which was smartly saved by John O’Hare, gave Down a reminder of the threat Offaly possessed on the break.

Pat Havern kept the scoreboard ticking over for the home side from the dead ball and swung over an audacious point from play from tight on the right sideline.

Down did cough up a few cheap turnovers before half-time and Offaly managed to chalk up a couple of points which kept them in touch before a manic second half which Laverty conceded was probably entertaining for the supporters, but was worry for his side.

“Down teams have always had a goal threat with them, but we’ve been working very hard on getting our points tally up because there’s days when team are going to be very defensive and play with a low bock and you’re not going to get them goalscoring opportunities so you have be able to chip away at the points, so we’ve been working hard on that.”

Down: J O’Hare; P Fegan, R McEvoy, C Doherty; M Rooney, P Laverty, P McCarthy; O Murdock, S Annett; C Mooney (0-1), L Kerr (2-0), D Guinness; D Magill (0-1), P Havern (0-6, 0-5), J Guinness Subs: R Johnston (1-0) for Annett (h-t), O Savage for J Guinness (h-t), A Doherty for R McEvoy (42), J Flynn for Mooney (43), R Magill (0-1) for McCarthy (66)

Yellow card: Ryan McEvoy (34)

Offaly: I Duffy; L Pearson, D Dempsey, A Bracken; C Egan, J Furlong, J O’Brien; E O’Carroll, P Cunningham; K McDermott, R McNamee, J Hayes; (0-1), D Hyland (0-2, 0-1), K O’Neill (1-2), J Bryant (1-4, 0-5) Subs: A Sullivan (0-3, 0-1 free) for Hyland (21), C Flynn (0-1) for McNamee (43), N Poland for McDermott (43), R Egan for J O’Brien (55), A Bolger for Pearson (64)

Red card: J Furlong 67

Referee: C Dourneen (Cavan)