Down 0-14 Tipperary 1-11
NFL Division 2
Barry Grogan converted a pressure free in the third minute of stoppage time to earn Tipperary a point from their visit to Pairc Esler.
For long stages, it looked as if Down were about to exact revenge for last season’s defeat in the NFL Division Three final, but in the end, they failed to drive home the advantage.
All credit to Tipp, who battled courageously after falling behind in the early stages, and it would have been an injustice had they started off on the long journey south with nothing to show for their efforts.
Down showed some excellent movement and good ideas in an opening quarter that they almost totally dominated.
Too often, however, they over-played the ball and tried to pick a pass too many.
But the territorial advantage they enjoyed, thanks to the ball-winning of Ambrose Rodgers and the artistry of Martin Clarke, helped them open out a 0-6 to 0-1 lead by the 20th minute
John Clarke, Conor Laverty, along with frees from Martin Clarke and Paul McComiskey, found the target, with Conor Sweeney responding with a couple of Tipp scores.
The last 10 minutes of the half, however, belonged to the resurgent Munster men.
George Hannigan and Seamus Grogan took over at midfield, and the strong running of centre forward Philip Austin had the Mourne defence in real trouble.
They hit 1-4 in that closing period, Sweeney, Austin and wing back Christopher Aylward all on target.
And a minute before the end of the half came the goal that dramatically gave them the lead. Barry Grogan floated a long free into the danger area, and when Down failed to clear, Brian Mulvihil poked the ball to the net from close range to send Tipp in with a 1-6 to 0-8 interval lead.
After falling further behind to Aylward’s second point, Down regrouped and got themselves back in front through John Clarke 12 minutes into the second half
Down were forced to increase the workrate to match the industry their opponents had displayed right from the start.
But Seamus Grogan continued to win vital Tipp possession in midfield, keeping his side very much in the game.
Benny Coulter’s emergence as an influential figure saw John Clarke and younger brother Martin ease the home side three points clear, the latter sending a screaming volley just over, clipping the crossbar as it went.
But once again, John Evans’ men dug deep, and scored the last three points of the game, all from placed balls, with Grogan showing an ice cool temperament to slot the leveller.
Down: B McVeigh, D McCartan, B McArdle, D Rafferty, K McKernan, J Colgan, C Garvey, A Rodgers, K King, C Maginn (0-1), M Clarke (0-5, 1f), P McComiskey (0-2, 2f), C Laverty (0-3), J Clarke (0-3), B Coulter.
Subs: P Fitzpatrick for King, S Kearney for Maginn, M Poland for Laverty, R Murtagh for McComiskey
Tipperary: P Fitzgerald, N Curran, C McDonald, A Morrissey, C Aylward (0-2), R Costigan, C McGrath, G Hannigan, S Grogan, B Mulvihill (1-0), P Austin (0-1), J Cagney, C Sweeney (0-5, 4f), B Coen, B Grogan (0-3, 3f).
Subs: S Hahessy for Cowen, S Carey for Cagney, P Acheson for Austin, A Rockett for S Grogan
Referee: J Curley (Meath).