Sheehan relieved to see Down seal McDonagh Cup safety with win over Meath

Pearse Og McCrickard in action for Down in their Joe McDonagh Cup Group B win over Meath at Ballycran on Saturday              Picture: Louis McNally

Joe McDonagh Cup Group B: Down 1-27 Meath 2-16

DOWN manager Ronan Sheehan was delighted with Saturday's margin of victory over Meath as it assures his side's place in the Joe McDonagh Cup for next season.

The Ardsmen survived a surge from the Royals before and after half-time, but they finished the game with a touch of class and were worthy victors in Ballycran.

“It means everything particularly because we won by eight points on the basis that we are safe now,” Sheehan said.

“Last week we lost to Kerry by six, so if Meath beats them by a few points, it could have left us still in the relegation but now we can’t be caught, so it is absolutely super stuff, and I am delighted to have secured our place in the McDonagh Cup next year.”

It was an exciting contest in McKenna Park, Paul Sheehan finished top scorer with 11 points and he kept the scoreboard ticking over before being replaced.

Tim Printer and goalscorer Ryan McCusker also shone in what was an impressive team performance whereas Meath relied heavily on their influential Jack Reagan (1-8).

Down were ahead 0-14 to 0-9 at half-time but Meath scored the last three points of the half and then the next three after the restart, which didn’t please the Down boss.

“We were in control, and they got the three points before half-time, and we had chances to break that run and we didn’t take them, and we missed a couple of frees and they came back up the field and got a couple of scores,” Sheehan said.

“Then they got the first three or four at the start of the second half and went on a wee bit of a run. But we weathered that storm and came back at them, which was positive.”

And in the second half Down were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes after Michael Hughes received a yellow card and conceded a penalty. Reagan missed from the spot, but Alan Douglas found the net a minute later.

But Down dug deep and hit back with the busy McCusker firing in a great goal and a volley of points from the subs. Reagan pulled back a goal from a close-range free with 65 minutes gone but a confident Down pulled away with Oisin McManus and Conor Woods getting in on the scoring.

The Down boss was content with how is side performed and feels there is room for improvement next season.

“I think the most pleasing thing was the character we showed,” Sheehan said.

“We lost a man and conceded a goal after maybe dodging a bullet with the penalty but then we dominated the last 15 minutes which was fantastic.

“Next year we are back in the Joe McDonagh Cup and back in Division 2A. I think this year was a year of consolidation, we have got to push on and see how far we can go, it is as simple as that.”

DOWN: S Keith, M Hughes, J McManus, M Conlon, B Trainor, C Woods (0-1 free), L Savage (0-1), D Hughes, T Prenter (0-3), R McCusker (1-1), P Sheehan (0-11, 0-9 frees), C Egan (0-1), P Og McCrickard, E Sands (0-2), D Sands (0-1).

Subs: J Doran (0-1) for Sheehan (55), O McManus (0-1, free) for McCrickard (55), P Savage (0-2) for Egan (57)

MEATH: C Ennis, G Murphy, S Whitty, S Geraghty, J Kelly, D Kelly (0-2), K Keoghan, S Morris, J Toher (0-2), I Birmingham (0-1), J Reagan (1-8, 1-5 frees), M O’Sullivan, A Gannon (0-1), A Douglas (1-0), P Coneelly (0-2).

Subs: P O’Hanrahan for Morris (26), E O’Donnchada for Birmingham (53), S Quigley for Conneely (53), Conneely for Reagan (70+2).

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