It must have felt like Brexit had come early for Down — and boy was it a hard one.
Despite starting the day in pole position, the Mournemen crashed out of the Division 3 title race in dramatic circumstances at Páirc Esler.
Louth folk just love popping over the border for a bargain and they swiped promotion from under their neighbours’ noses, keeping themselves very much in the hunt for an instant return to Division 2.
Laois’ win over Carlow sends the O’Moore men up, and they will be joined by either Westmeath or Louth, who play their re-fixed round six clash next weekend.
It took a bit of on-the-fly calculating to determine the result of that match is now of no interest to Down and when the news reached Paddy Tally he was understandably deflated.
“It’s gutting,” he said. “We shouldn’t have been relying on anyone else anyway. Our destiny was in our own hands today and we didn’t take it. We didn’t play well enough and it’s fierce disappointing. But that’s the way it goes.”
As Tally hinted, the visitors were full value for their win, bossing the first half despite playing into a gale-force wind and then opening a six-point lead 10 minutes into the second period.
Down were fortunate to adjourn at the break just a point in arrears, 0-4 to 0-3. There was also a touch of fortune about Darren O’Hagan’s 53rd-minute goal, which sparked an unlikely comeback. They came within a whisker of landing the draw that would have returned them to Division 2. Louth can still achieve that feat next weekend and selector Liam Kelleher feels this victory will stand to them when they host Westmeath.
“The lads showed an ability to learn from their mistakes against Carlow,” he said. “We used the ball very intelligently and it was a very positive performance. The goal brought them back into, but our ‘keeper was adamant the ball was over the end line [in the build-up]. From our point of view we went back down the other end and got a point straight away and that showed a bit of maturity. They showed great character to hang on and they’re looking forward to the Westmeath game now.”
Scorers for Louth: S Mulroy 0-5f, J Califf 0-2, D Byrne, T Durnin, F Donohoe, (0-1)
Scorers for Down: D O’Hagan 1-1, C Poland, R Johnston, C Mooney, P Devlin, C Harrison 0-1 each.
LOUTH: F Sheekey; F Donohoe, E Carolan, J Craven; A Williams, B Duffy, J Clutterbuck; T Durnin, J Califf; J McEneaney, C Downey, C Branigan; D Byrne, S Mulroy, A McDonnell.
Subs: D Maguire for J Clutterbuck (56), E Duffy for C Branigan (56), C Early for J Califf (61), Conall McKeever for A McDonnell (62).
DOWN: R Burns; K McKernan, R Wells, R McAleenan; P Laverty’s, C Flanagan, D O’Hagan; J Flynn, C Mooney; R Johnston, C Poland, D Guinness; J Johnston, D O’Hare, B O’Hagan.
Subs: P Devlin for C Flanagan (30), C Quinn for J Johnston (ht), D McKibbin for P Laverty’s (ht), B McArdle for R Wells (46), C Harisson for B O’Hagan (49).
Referee: P Hickey (Carlow).