Down stroll in the sun against tired Treaty as Laverty eyes Tailteann Cup redemption

Mournemen pick themselves up after Armagh defeat to lay down marker against Limerick

Down's Pierce Laverty in action during the GAA All-Ireland Senior Championship Tailteann Cup group 4 Round 4 on 05-11-2024 at Pairc Esler Newry. Pic Philip Walsh
Down's Pierce Laverty catches a high ball during their Tailteann Cup Group 4 game against Limerick in Páirc Esler on Saturday Picture: Philip Walsh
Tailteann Cup Group Four: Down 1-20 Limerick 1-6

Down manager Conor Laverty conceded he would have much preferred to have spent Saturday afternoon preparing for an Ulster final on Sunday, but he was pleased with the response of his team to their agonising Ulster semi-final defeat to Armagh as they strolled to a win over Limerick at Páirc Esler.

It may have been Championship weather, but the intensity was somewhere between a Division Three league game and a Dr McKenna Cup clash. It’s here, though, that the healing process begins.

Still, Down maintained their focus and reeled off 1-20 from 13 different scorers to start their quest for the Tailteann Cup in emphatic style.

“It would have been great to have been preparing for an Ulster final tomorrow. Whenever the lads came in [after the Armagh game] we just chatted about standards and being the best that we can be and developing this group, it’s a young group, and approaching this competition in a really good manner.

“We just really went at training. Training was intense this week. We just asked them to put their heads down and get back on the horse again. Get through these couple of games and the picture will become a whole lot clearer.”

Limerick managed a full two minutes of possession from the throw-in before a speculative ball to the square trundled wide and the early terms of engagement were established.

Down would tolerate the visitors’ benign custody of the ball before breaking at pace and picking off scores.

It took some time, though, for the home side to deliver on the second part of that bargain, but as soon as they did, the result never looked in doubt.

Odhran Murdock’s opening point on nine minutes was as merciful as it was simple. A direct ball into the Burren man on the edge of the square drew a foul from his marker and he tapped the free over from 20 metres.

It saw Down move up a gear, if not quite hit top speed, but bursting runs from Liam Kerr and Ryan Johnston brought further points in an opening quarter starved of them.

Limerick’s sole response was a Peter Nash free before further scores from Pat Havern, Eamonn Brown, Ryan and Danny Magill and Murdock stretched the lead out to 0-9 0-1 before Limerick registered again.

A couple frees from James Naughton and another from Nash were all the visitors could muster as the teams turned with Down 0-10 to 0-4 to the good.

Down's Odhran Murdock and Limerick's Seán O'Dea in action during the GAA All-Ireland Senior Championship Tailteann Cup group 4 Round 4 on 05-11-2024 at Pairc Esler Newry. Pic Philip Walsh
Down's Odhran Murdock and Limerick's Seán O'Dea in action during the Tailteann Cup Group 4 at Páirc Esler, Newry Picture: Philip Walsh

When Daniel Guinness burst through in typical fashion for a Down goal on 39 minutes, that was the cue for Laverty to run his bench and see further scores flow, but not before Nash responded with a  Limerick goal.

John McGovern was sprung from the subs and thumped over three emphatic points, firmly putting behind him his previously difficult outing with the Down seniors. It was an eye-catching cameo from the Ballyholland man and the perfect environment for him to showcase the skills which marked him out as a start of Laverty’s U20 team.

Eamonn Brown scored either side of an unfortunate black card but a red card for second half sub Eoin Hurley two minutes after entering the fray for Limerick, for a knee to the head of Ryan Johnston ended all Treaty resistance and Down trotted to victory.

The memory of defeat to Meath in last year’s Tailteann Cup final still rankles with Down and even though there is a route back to the Sam Maguire, Laverty is adamant they want to right last year’s wrong.

“It’s a competition that we’re in and there’s a trophy at the end of it. We want to get back to Croke Park and we rectify what happened last year. The Sam Maguire is an added incentive into it, but you want to win trophies and you want to win the competition that you’re in. That’s how we’re approaching this.”

Down: J O’Hare; F McElroy, R McEvoy (0-1), P Fegan (0-1); R Magill (0-1), P Laverty, S Johnston; D Guinness (1-0), O Murdock (0-2 frees); B McConville, L Kerr (0-1),  E Brown (0-3); D Magill (0-2), P Havern (0-3, 0-1 free, 0-1 mark), R Johnston (0-1) Subs: S Annett for B McConville (44); J McGovern (0-3) for L Kerr (45); G McKibbin (0-1) for D Magill (49); P McCarthy for R Johnston (58); C McCrickard (0-1) for Brown (59)

Black card: E Brown (45-55)

Limerick: J Ryan; T McCarthy, S O’Dea, C Woulfe; B Coleman, C Fahy, P Maher; T Childs, T Griffin; S Costelloe, J Naughton (0-2 frees), C Downes; B Ahern, R Childs, P Nash (1-4, 0-4 frees)

Subs: J Sweeney for Griffin (34); D Siochru for Ahern (49); J Baynham for T McCarthy (50); D O’Doherty for J Naughton (55); E Hurley for P Maher (64)

Yellow card: C Woulfe (50)

Red card: J Baynham (52)

Referee: C Dourneen (Cavan)