Down 3-17 Longford 2-24 (aet): Eamonn Burns will consider his future as Down manager after the county’s worst season on record came to a miserable end on Saturday.
Longford’s thoroughly deserved extra-time victory in the All-Ireland SFC first round qualifier inflicted an 11th defeat succession on Down, who are without a win in league or championship for almost 15 months.
When asked whether he wanted to stay on for a second year, Burns said: “We’re not going to make a knee-jerk reaction”.
“We’ll contemplate it over the next week or two and see where we go from there.”
Saturday’s loss in Pairc Esler, coming three weeks after a record 19-point Ulster championship defeat by Monaghan, should have come as a merciful relief for everyone connected with Down.
For a variety of reasons, they failed to get anything close to their best team on the pitch in 2016 but, as has been the case all year, there was little to be gleaned from Burns’ terse media briefing.
“It’s been a difficult year for Down. We’re in transition, we’re building a team and things don’t happen quickly. In the championship, we blooded a lot of new players that haven’t played championship before. It’s very tough at the minute.”
Apart from a spell in the third quarter, Longford totally outplayed Down. . “It’s a fantastic result for us,” said manager Denis Connerton.
“We knew beating Down was possible if we played well and it’s a big scalp for us.
“Hopefully, we can get a home draw in the next round. We’ve been on the road a while this year, so it would be lovely to play at home.”
Donal O’Hare top-scored with 2-9 for Down, his two goals after half-time bringing them back into the game for a spell, but their problems were at the other end. After leaking 2-22 against Monaghan, they conceded 0-21 in normal time on Saturday against the Division 3 outfit. Mickey Quinn bossed the game for Longford, driving them forward from centre-back and kicking 0-4 from play as well as setting up numerous scores.
He was influential in their good start with Barry McKeon, Robbie Smyth and Brian Kavanagh also scoring as they opened up a 0-7 to 0-3 lead after 21 minutes.
Down, short on confidence, scored a goal against the run of play, a well-worked move on the break which Conor Maginn finished to the net.
Two James McGivney points helped Longford lead 0-11 to 1-4 at the break but poor shooting cost them a bigger lead having also kicked eight wides to Down’s one. Down came out after the break with greater intensity and injected much-needed urgency into their play. It had an immediate impact, O’Hare burying a goal into the top corner after 35 seconds.
Nine minutes later, his low finish to the net put them ahead for the first time since and Down looked the more likely winners. However, Longford rallied again, hitting five unanswered points in 11 minutes to take the lead in the second minute of injury-time.
O’Hare’s tap-over free, after Longford’s Mickey Brady was sent off for a second yellow card in the last act of normal time, snatched a 3-12 to 0-21 draw for Down.
But there was only one team in it in extra time, Longford subs Seamus Hannon and Mark Hughes scoring a goal in each half to deservedly book their place in this morning’s Round 2B draw.
Scorers for Down:
D O’Hare (2-9, 8 frees); C Maginn (1-1); R Mallon (0-4); B O’Hagan (0-1); S Dornan (0-1); M Poland (0-1)
Scorers for Longford:
B Kavanagh (0-6, 5 frees); M Quinn (0-4); R Smyth (0-4, 1f); S Hannon (1-1); J McGivney (0-3); D Masterson (0-3); M Hughes (1-0); B McKeon (0-2); D Reynolds (0-1)
M Reid; C McGovern, G McGovern, D O’Hagan; D McKibbin, A Carr, D O’Hanlon; P Turley, K McKernan; R Mallon, M Poland, J Murphy; C Maginn, D O’Hare, B O’Hagan
G Collins for McKibbin (43), M McKay for McKernan (53), D Turley for Murphy (55), S Dornan (0-1) for B O’Hagan (63), H Brown for McKay (BC, 79), K McKernan for Maginn (84), B McArdle for Carr (89)
P Collum; C Farrelly, B Gilleran, D Brady; D McElligot, M Quinn, D Masterson; M Brady, D Gallagher; D Reynolds, J McGivney, B McKeon; R Smyth, B Kavanagh, B O’Farrell
P McGee for Gilleran (47), L Connerton for Gallagher (55), S Hannon for McKeon (60), B Farrell for Reynolds (67), M Hughes for J McGivney (BC, 80), R Connor for Smyth (86), D McGivney for Quinn (89)
Barry Cassidy (Derry)
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