It was one of those days at Elverys MacHale Park as Mayo were given a stark reality-check by the 2010 All-Ireland finalists.
The man in the middle, Barry Cassidy from Derry, left the field to a chorus of boos, following a series of contentious decisions. The red card he showed to Mayo midfielder, Aidan O’Shea, in the ninth minute changed the complexion of the game but manager James Horan refused to use it as an excuse.
“Did he a get a few calls wrong today? Of course he did. But we still had the chances to win the game.”
Cassidy dismissed O’Shea after consulting with his linesman, following an incident when O’Shea tangled with Down’s Danny Hughes.
“That’s a tremendous result for us,” remarked Down manager, James McCartan afterwards.
“We’re delighted to come here and get a result. We moved the ball quicker, which we’re trying to do. Some people thing we’re trying to play some fancy defensive system but that’s certainly not the case.”
Despite the fact Mayo took an early lead with points from Andy Moran and Conor Mortimer, O’Shea’s departure robbed them of a midfield presence. Ten minutes later the visitors took the lead for the first time when Conor Maginn palmed a goal after Ambrose Rogers and Conor Laverty combined cleverly.
Mayo’s response was impressive and the sides were level when Alan Dillon and Conor Mortimer (free) posted points.
However, with Ambrose Rogers in dominant form, Down finished the half strongly and Aidan Carr (three), Conor Maginn and Rogers on target. This purple patch left Down ahead by 1-7 to 0-6 at the break and in a strong position.
But scores from Conor Mortimer (free) and Alan Freeman halved the deficit with 20 minutes remaining, and the large partisan home crowd sensed a revival.
However, a string of missed scoring opportunities cost James Horan’s side dearly.
Scorers for Mayo: C Mortimer 0-6fs, A Dillon, A Freeman (1f) 0-2 each, A Moran 0-1.
Scorers for Down: A Carr 0-5 (3fs), C Maginn 1-1, A Rogers 0-3 (1 45), B Coulter 0-2, K Duffin, D Hughes 0-1 each.
MAYO: R Hennelly; K Keane, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; R Feeney, D Vaughan, L Keegan; A O’Shea, B Moran; A Dillon, A Freeman, J Doherty; C Mortimer, A Moran, E Varley.
Subs: S O’Shea for Doherty, M Conroy for Varley, P Harte for Moran, P Gardiner for Feeney.
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, C Garvey, D Turley; N McParland, A Brannigan, D Gordon; K King, A Rogers; A Carr, C Maginn, D Hughes; M Poland, A McConville, C Laverty.
Subs: K Kernan for Garvey, K Duffin for Turley, B Coulter for McConville, P Turley for Rogers, E McCartan for Poland.
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).