The old cliche ‘goals win games’ rang true in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park as a hat-trick of goals from Donal O’Hare saw Down inflict a first league defeat on Longford and keep their promotion hopes very much alive.
It was a fine display from the Mourne men with O’Hare taking his goals well. Down keeper Rory Burns played his part in this win denying the impressive Darren Gallagher twice with fine saves and then saving Micheal Quinn’s second-half penalty.
The home side looked nervous in the opening half and made mistakes. Darren Gallagher registered the first score with a free in the fourth minute and despite possession Longford couldn’t add to it.
In the 12th minute Down got a goal when a long ball in from Caolan Mooney was neatly finished to the net by Donal O’Hare.
Points from Gallagher (free) and Liam Connerton drew Longford level in the 16th minute but Down finished strongly hitting over four points in a row with two from O’Hare (one free), Conor Poland and Gerard Collins. Longford had a goal chance in the 28th minute; Darren Quinn made a great run to the endline and crossed to Gallagher but his effort was saved by Rory Burns as the Midlanders trailed by four at the break.
Down stretched their lead to seven within one minute of the second half; another long ball in this time from Poland caught Longford napping again and O’Hare grabbed his and his side’s second goal.
Longford got a much needed point from sub Connor Berry in the 38th minute. Minutes later Burns was on hand to deny Gallagher. Longford were made rue those missed goal chances in the 50th minute when a mark from Jerome Johnston found Daniel Guinness and he played it to O’Hare who got his third goal.
Berry kicked over a free in the 56th minute and two minutes later Longford had a chance for a goal when they were awarded a penalty after Quinn was fouled. He stepped up but his spot-kick was pushed out for a ‘45'. Gallagher made no mistake with the ‘45'.
Down subs Jerome Johnston (two) and Daniel Guinness added points to their score while Longford got consolation points from Gallagher, a superb point, and Connerton.
Down: R Burns; G Collins (0-1), R Wells, R McAleenan; P Laverty, C Flanagan, D O’Hagan; J Flynn, C Mooney; R Johnston, C Poland (0-1), C McGrady; D O’Hare (3-2,1f), C Harrison, K McKernan.
Subs: D Guinness (0-1) for McGrady (24), B O’Hagan for Johnston (34), C McGinn for Flynn and J Johnston (0-2) for Harrison (43), B McArdle for R Wells (62)
Longford: P Collum; D Quinn, A Farrell, B O’Farrell; CP Smyth, B McKeon, D Mimnagh; D Gallagher (0-4,2f, ‘145), M Quinn; S Donohoe, P Hanley, P Lynn; D Doherty, L Connerton (0-2), M Hughes.
Subs: D McElligott for Donohoe (24), C Berry (0-2,1f) for Hanley and J Hagan for Lynn (h-t), J McGivney for Hughes (55), P Fox for Mimnagh (64).
Louth moved to the top of the table, ahead of Down on scoring difference, thanks to their five-goal win over Sligo in Drogheda.
It was nip and tuck in the early stages, but then the Wee County went on a goal spree with Jim McEneaney, Eoghan Duffy and Sam Mulrony from the penalty spot putting them 3-08 to 0-08 up at the interval.
Duffy got his second after the break and Declan Byrne got the fifth when he fisted a Mulrony sideline ball into the net. Louth won a high-scoring contest 5-16 to 0-16
Westmeath have given themselves a chance of having something to say as part of the promotion conversation thanks to their 0-13 to 0-10 win over Laois in Mullingar, which moves them to third in the table, one point off the top.
Ger Egan’s free-taking was central to this win and there were also strong performances from Kieran Martin and John Heslin, a late inclusion in the team and not long back following his decision to reverse his announcement that he was taking a year out of inter-county football.
Offaly got their first win of the season, beating Carlow 0-15 to 1-09 at Bord na Mona O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
They drag themselves off the bottom of the table, leapfrogging Carlow, who are now in the bottom two and only kept off the table by pointless Sligo.
Carlow finished with 12 men with Jordan Morrissey, two yellows, Danny Moran, straight red, and Eoghan Ruth, black card, all walking in the final 15 minutes.