Down put themselves right into the promotion mix in division two of the Allianz football league this afternoon when they bounced back from their defeat to Cork in fine style, recording a fully-deserved 0-12 to 0-7 win over Roscommon at Dr. Hyde Park.
The playing surface in Roscommon held up well in the face of heavy snow showers but the bitterly cold wind that blew down the ground proved very influential, as Down established a winning position in the opening period, firing over nine points before the interval.
These two sides came into this fixture in very different states of mind after their contests in round 2. Down had fallen away in the latter stages of their home clash with Cork and succumbed to their first defeat of the campaign, while Roscommon rescued an unlikely victory from six points down against Tipperary, and consequently went into today’s game brimming with confidence.
Yet it was the visiting Mourne men who played all the best football in the opening half, admittedly assisted by the breeze.
A couple of early attempts failed to find the target as the first nine minutes passed by without a flag waved at either end, but a high, arcing kick from midfielder Niall Donnelly broke the deadlock and proved to be the catalyst for a period of impressive football from Eamonn Burns’ charges.
Barry O’Hagan, Ryan Johnston and Caolan Mooney were all on target from play as Down moved into a commanding 0-6 to 0-0 lead, while Roscommon’s hopes were dealt a further blow when midfielder Ian Kilbride received two yellow cards in the space of four minutes, the second for an off the ball altercation with Donnelly.
Down’s style of play was ideally suited to taking on a depleted opponent as they moved the ball well with a series of intermediate range foot passes, stretching the play and using the full width and length of the new Hyde Park field, which is identical in dimensions to Croke Park.
Six different scorers from play in the opening half further illustrated the range of scoring threats they possessed all across the field.
Roscommon enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening half but struggled to make an impact up front, though some good bursts forward by Brian Stack and Diarmuid Murtagh helped them to pick off three points in five minutes to narrow the gap.
Down re-asserted themselves however and restored their advantage, taking an 0-9 to 0-3 lead into the dressing room.
The introduction of Ciaráin Murtagh paid immediate dividends for Roscommon as the St. Faithleach’s man drove at the Down defence and earned a free which was converted by his brother Diarmuid, while a second dead ball strike cut the gap further with the next attack.
The first of two glorious chances fell Roscommon’s way after 45 minutes when Caolan Mooney was deemed to have tripped Enda Smith on the edge of the large square and referee Sean Hurson stretched his arms out to award a penalty.
Ciaráin Murtagh’s low shot was well placed but lacked power, and Down keeper Marc Reid was able to dive down and make a crucial low save, parrying the ball out for a ’45.
Donie Smith struck the resultant ’45 straight over the posts to maintain Roscommon’s momentum and when the same player pounced on a loose ball to split the uprights after 54 minutes, the home crowd were giddy in their excitement, anticipating yet another late comeback.
It wasn’t to be however as Down dominated the final quarter. Brendan McArdle and Niall McParland were superb along the spine of the defence, Ryan Johnston picked up some crucial breaks in the middle third and points from Darren O’Hagan, Darragh O’Hanlon and Niall Madine wrapped up a crucial win for Down, setting them up nicely for a home tie against Clare in two weeks.
Roscommon have less of a break, and must regroup for their rescheduled FBD league clash with Galway, due to be played in Tuam next Sunday.
ROSCOMMON: James Featherston; David Murray, John McManus, Niall McInerney; Niall Daly, Fergal Lennon, Brian Stack; Enda Smith, Ian Kilbride; Finbar Cregg, Niall Kilroy, Conor Devaney (0-01); Diarmuid Murtagh (0-02, frees), Ciaran Lennon, Cian McKeon (0-02, frees).
Subs: Ciaráin Murtagh for Cregg (HT), Donie Smith (0-02, 0-01 ’45) for McKeon (47), Conor Daly for F Lennon (57), Hubert Darcy for Kilroy (60), Sean McDermott for Stack (62), Ultan Harney for E Smith (69).
DOWN: Marc Reid; Anthony Doherty, Brendan McArdle, Colm Flanagan (0-01); Darren O’Hagan (0-01), Niall McParland, Caolan Mooney (0-01); Conor Poland, Niall Donnelly (0-01); Shay Millar, Conor Maginn, Ryan Johnston (0-01); Barry O’Hagan (0-01, free), Donal O’Hare (0-03, 0-01 free), Aaron Morgan.
Subs: David McKibbin for Poland (57), Darragh O’Hanlon (0-01, free) for B O’Hagan (57), Niall Madine (0-01) for O’Hare (63 – bc), Keith Quinn for McArdle (68)
Ref: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)