Win brings Dubs' semi-final hopes closer, but Down look certain for the drop

The Dubs made virtually certain of a National Football League semi-final place with a comfortable if unspectacular eight points win over Down at Pairc Esler.

Win brings Dubs' semi-final hopes closer, but Down look certain for the drop

Down 1-7 Dublin 1-15

The Dubs made virtually certain of a National Football League semi-final place with a comfortable if unspectacular eight points win over Down at Pairc Esler.

The Mourne men look doomed to a quick return to Division Two following a fifth straight defeat, and despite a strong start, they were chasing this game almost throughout.

Donal O’Hare had them four points ahead with a fortuitous goal, but after Cormac Costello smashed home an18th minute goal, the Dubs moved into cruise control.

At times they were totally dominant, but became ragged and somewhat disorganised in the second half, struggling to rediscover their early fluency.

Down had failed to score a goal in any of their previous four games, but they had the ball in the net as early as the fifth minute, albeit with the help of a Stephen Cluxton mistake.

The Dublin goalkeeper failed to hold a harmless looking effort from O’Hare, whose attempt for a point fell short, and the home side led by 1-2 to 0-1 after six minutes.

But they lost the influential Kevin McKernan top a black card early on, and his leadership was sorely missed.

Dean Rock had eased the Dubs ahead in the second minute, but it took them another 12 minutes to add to their tally, Costello knocking over the first of three first half frees.

Down ‘keeper Michael Cunningham was struggling to find how own men from kick-outs, and Dublin dominated possession around the middle, moving the ball quickly to strike for 1-2 in the space of two minutes.

After Paul Flynn and Ciaran Kilkenny slotted over points, they struck for a goal in the 18th minute. Kevin McManamon’s shot was blocked, and Costello seized upon thje rebound to smash a fierce shot past Cunningham.

Dublin pressed high up the field, forcing their opponents to defend deep and at times desperately, and scores from McManamon, Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Flynn soon had them six points clear.

O’Hare finally ended a 26 minute scoreless spell with a converted free, but Costello’s 1-3 haul sent the Dubs in with a 1-8 to 1-3 interval lead.

Costello and Flynn tagged on points early in the second half as the Dubs pushed further ahead, and they should have had a goal, but Cunningham saved from McManamon, who turned the rebound over the bar.

Flynn departed on a black card, but only after landing a delightful score his second, and Down pulled back scores through O’Hare, Murphy and substitute Paul Devlin.

Midway through the half, they had cut the deficit back to four points, but Dublin were still able to create further goal chances, and substitute Eric Lowndes pulled a shot wide when a second three-pointer looked certain.

Rock drilled over a ’45, and the excellent Jonny Cooper pushed forward to claim a point, before Paddy Andrews came off the bench to launch a brilliant score from wide on the left.

Down didn’t score in the final quarter, but they did twice come close to grabbing goals, Devlin smashing a shot against the crossbar, while Henry Brown was denied by a post.

Down: M Cunningham, G Collins, G McGovern, D O’Hagan, J Flynn, A Carr, D O’Hanlon (0-1), P Turley, M McKay (0-1), C Maginn, R Mallon, K McKernan, C McGovern, D O’Hare (1-2, 0-2f), B O’Hagan.

Subs: J Murphy (0-2) for McKernan (6, BC), P Devlin (0-1) for Mallon (47), L Howard for Carr (51), C Harrison for O’Hagan (51), H Brown for McKay (57)

Dublin: S Cluxton, D Byrne, M Fitzsimons, J Small, J McCarthy, P McMahon, J Cooper (0-1), B Fenton, S Carthy, P Flynn (0-2), D Connolly, C Kilkenny (0-2), C Costello (1-4, 0-4f), K McManamon (0-2), D Rock (0-3, 1 ’45, 1f).

Subs: S B Carthy for Flynn (43, BC), P Andrews (0-1) for McManamon (46), E Lowndes for S Carthy (46), D Bastick for Fenton, T Brady for Costello (56), D Daly for Cooper (66)

Referee: D O’Mahony (Tipperary).

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