Twice Down came from behind to grind out a draw with London in this exciting and closely fought Christy Ring Cup semi-final at Páirc Esler on Saturday.
That they achieved a draw was most satisfying to Down, who had to play most of the second-half of the opening regulation game, without their star scoring forward Paul Braniff who received a red card five minutes into the half.
Leading by three points at that stage London seized their opportunity and scored seven unanswered points in the final 20 minutes to take a three-point lead. But two minutes into added time Down centre-back Conor Woods fired a 35m free to the London net to send the game to extra-time while London’s left half back Lee Mackey received a second yellow card and was dismissed with seconds remaining.
With both sides restored to full strength for extra-time, London established a single-point lead in the dying moments but again, with time up, Down were awarded a long-range free and Michael Turley became their saviour with a brilliant strike to send both teams to Ruislip for the replay next Saturday.
Three times in the first half the sides were level before Paul Braniff, with five points from frees, edged Down ahead by 0-10 to 0-7. Martin Finn equalled the Down players scoring feat with four pointed frees before he retired injured. His replacement Tony Dunne rejuvenated London when he raced in for a goal three minutes from half time to leave the score Down 0-12 London 1-8 at the break.
Two Paul Braniff frees increased the Down lead before his dismissal. London fought back with four pointed frees by Pat Sloane and two from PJ Roe to go into a 1-16 to 0-16 lead with the 70 minutes played.
Then came a Conor Woods’ goal from a free to rescue Down and send the game to extra-time.
Three Michael Turley points from play saw Down one ahead at half-time in the extra period. But London responded and took the lead with a Jonathan Maher point and looked like securing their first ever Christy Ring final place until Michael Turley’s late free saved Down’s blushes.
Scorers for Down: P Braniff 0-8 (7fs, 2 65s), M Turley 0-6 (2fs), C Woods 1-1, P Sheehan 0-4, D Hughes, A Savage 0-1 each.
Scorers for London: P Sloane 0-7 (6fs), M Finn 0-5fs, T Dunne 1-1, J Maher 0-3, PJ Roe, K Walsh 0-2 each, S Egan 0-1.
DOWN: S Keith; S Ennis, M Ennis, J Smyth; F Conway, C Woods, M Cunningham; A Savage, E Clarke; P Sheehan, P Braniff, A O’Prey; C Mageean, D Hughes, M Turley.
Subs: P Smyth for Smyth; C Bailie for Mageean; D Hobbs for Sheehan, E McGuinness for O’Prey, P Keith (et), A Clarke for McGuinness (et), C Mageean for Hughes (et).
LONDON: T Williams; E Walsh, B Costello, G Fennelly; M Ryan, D Maher, L Mackey; C Quinn, PJ Roe; P Sloane, J Egan, S Egan; J Maher, M Finn, L Hand.
Subs: T Dunne for Finn, S Ryan for Ryan, H Vaughan for S Egan, K Walsh for Hand, S Ryan for J Egan; E Gleeson for Sloane (et).
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow).
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