Down 1-12 Sligo 2-05

Updated: Sunday, 03 Feb 2008 09:10

Benny Coulter came off the bench to help Down to victory
Benny Coulter came off the bench to help Down to victory

Down put in a cracking second half display to rob Sligo of the Allianz NFL Division Three spoils at Newry.

The Connacht champions looked to be coasting when leading 2-04 to 0-04 at half-time, with Mark Breheny and Eamon Cawley both finding the hosts' net.

But the introductions of Paul McComiskey, Benny Coulter and Colm Murney, combined with good scores from Daniel Hughes and John Fegan, inspired Down's fightback.

Dan Gordon fisted home Down's only goal and Sligo had Eamon O'Hara sent-off for an elbow in injury-time.

Thriving on a direct style and their fast-breaking half-back line, Sligo were ahead in the first-minute when Breheny pointed a free after a foul on O'Hara.

The former All-Star O'Hara landed the visitors' second point, following a pass from Kieran Quinn, and while Fegan replied for Down, the Yeats men were celebrating their first goal just eight minutes in.

David Kelly gobbled up a loose ball and sent it through to Breheny who turned brilliantly to flash home a superb shot beyond the grasp of Down goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh.

Fegan again replied with a point at the other end and Kenneth Sweeney and Jackie Lynch swapped points before Fegan and Kelly did likewise as the intensity increased.

Right on the half-hour mark, Sligo, almost against the run of play, carved open the Sligo rearguard to fashion their second goal.

Corner-back Charlie Harrison made a surging run all the way from his own square before launching a neat pass to O'Hara. Johnny Davey took the ball on before Kelly chipped the ball in for Cawley to collect and send a rocket of a shot to the Down net.

The Mourne men gained the first three points of the second half. Hughes (0-02) and Kevin McKernan were both on target as Sligo's lead was cut to 2-04 to 0-07.

Kevin Byrne ended Down's run of scores with O'Hara providing the assist but the pressure mounted on Sligo as Down's McComiskey and Hughes picked off points.

Points from Fegan after 47 and 55 minutes saw the recently crowned Dr McKenna Cup champions level the tie at 0-11 to 2-05.

Down's superior fitness was beginning to show and they nabbed the lead point in the 65th-minute through Liam Doyle (free). Their hunt for a goal looked to be in vain as Gordon, set up by substitute Coulter, hit the side-netting with a good chance.

But the big midfielder was perfectly placed to sweep home the clinching goal for his side, three minutes from time.

O'Hara's red card, which saw him strike a Down player with his elbow, saw the night end on a sour note for a Sligo outfit that are sure to be a handful for the other teams in this division.

Fegan finished as Down's top scorer with 0-05 (0-03f), while goal scorer Breheny led the Sligo scoring with 1-01 (0-01f).