Clinical Connaire Harrison helps Down sink Louth
A goal and two points in three second half minutes give Ulster side Division Two win
Connaire Harrison helped Down past Louth in their Division Two opener. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Down 1-14 Louth 0-11
A clinical three-minute raid by full forward Connaire Harrison ensured Down avoided a second successive opening-day league defeat to their former maestro Pete McGrath in Drogheda.
The double All-Ireland winner steered Fermanagh to a nine-point win in Newry 12 months ago, but history never really looked like repeating at the Gaelic Grounds.
His Louth side did seem to have the momentum when they closed to within two points of his native county with seven minutes of normal-time remaining, but Harrison came up trumps, settling a scrappy contest with a goal and two points in the space of three minutes.
Louth had started brightly against a strong breeze, but Down grew in stature as the first-half progressed and retired with a 0-7 to 0-4 lead at the interval.
They stretched that advantage to six after the break - 0-11 to 0-5 - but Louth rallied with four unanswered points.
Harrison eased the pressure with the next point and he was gifted a second by a poor kick-out from Craig Lynch. Then he all but ended the game as a contest moments later, firing to the bottom corner at the second attempt following a scramble in the small square.
Down boss Eamon Burns was delighted with the points and his side’s second-half display was particularly pleasing.
“I thought we used and controlled the ball very well in the second-half and we created openings and took scores at very important times,” he said.
His counterpart McGrath felt that Harrison’s power surge was the tipping point for Louth, but he wasn’t completely downbeat about the defeat either.
“I thought the first 15 minutes we played exceptionally well and controlled the game to a large extent and going in 7-4 down wasn’t too bad.
“But we told the players the breeze will not win it for us, and although we started off the second-half quite well, we lost our way. We became disorganised and bit discouraged. We eventually woke up and got it to two points and I thought at that stage it was anybody’s game. We almost had the next kick-out, but they broke down the field and kicked a point and a bad kick-out gifted them another point, and it was always going to be difficult after that.”
Down: S Harrison; C Flanagan, G McGovern, B McArdle; D O’Hanlon (0-3 frees), N McParland, A Doherty; C Poland, N Donnelly (0-1); S Millar (0-1), C Maginn, C Mooney (0-2); S Dornan, C Harrison (1-3), A Morgan (0-2). Subs: D O’Hare (0-1) for Dornan (ht); K McKiernan (0-1) for Maginn (43); D O’Hagan for Doherty (46); D McKibbin for Donnelly (50).
Louth: C Lynch; J Bingham, E Carolan, J Craven; D Marks, B Duffy, A Williams; T Durnin (0-2), A McDonnell (0-1); D Maguire (0-2), J McEneaney, C McKeever; D Byrne, G McSorley, W Woods (0-6, 5 frees). Subs: J Stewart for McKeever (35), C Grimes for Stewart (57), R Holcroft for Byrne (58), T McEneaney for McSorley (67).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).