Camogs facing battle to survive

Camogs facing battle to survive

18 August 2021

THE final scoreline from this relegation semi-final at Cavan’s Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday reads a little harshly on Down.

The Down girls more than matched Offaly all around the field, but could not create the goal scoring opportunities that eventually made the difference in the game.

Siobhán Flannery scored four goals for Offaly, yet didn’t have to work hard for any of them as the ball was played to her unmarked no more than ten metres from the net on each occasion.

It was just a case of keeping it low under Catherine McGourty.

The problem came from the runners opening up the middle, drawing the last defender and off-loading to the unmarked player. Offaly were ruthless when the opportunity presented itself.

Down didn’t create any goal opportunities until late in the game when they were chasing it and 

had pushed full-back Dearbhla Magee up as a marauding midfielder.

As regards scores in general the Mourne girls were too reliant on the mercurial Niamh Mallon, who produced a master-class, despite being double-marked at times and pushed to wide positions.

She still hit a brilliant 1-6 from play and added another six points from frees and in the early stages of the game she looked to be in the form to take Down to victory.

Mallon scored two over-the-shoulder efforts from acute angles in the opening ten minutes to put Down into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead.

She added another point in the 12th minute and Down were well worth their 0-5 to 0-2 lead at the water-break.

They also hit three balls off target, as did the Midlanders, who looked fairly average at that point.

The teams then swapped points before the first goal.

Play broke in favour of Offaly around the 45m line and Aisling Brennan dashed through before finding Siobhán Flannery unmarked in front of the Down goal.

That score sparked Offaly into life and although Mallon tagged on two points in reply, the Midlanders were beginning to build up a head of steam and they hit 1-4 in the five minutes before the break to take a lead of 2-7 to 0-9 into the second half.

Flannery’s second goal in the middle of those scores was fortuitous enough with a partially blocked shot falling neatly into her path and she finished from close range.

She pointed a free at the start of the second half, but Down closed the gap with three points in the opening five minutes, the first from Cassie Fitzpatrick and then two from the brilliant Mallon.

Offaly responded with points from Orla Kirwan and a Flannery free, but Down were in touch at 2-10 to 0-13 after 40 minutes.

They pressed but couldn’t score before Offaly broke clear in the 60 seconds before the second water-break.

Flannery and then Máiréad Teehan both found themselves in the open after defence splitting runs and both finished low to the net.

At 4-10 to 0-13 down, it was game over. Down were forced to go for goals and Offaly crowded their defence.

Niamh Mallon closed the gap with two points and had a 20m free saved on the line before Sarah Louise Graffin and Dearbhla Magee carved out a goal chance that Mallon batted home in the 58th minute.

The gap was now four points, and Offaly hadn’t scored in the last quarter.

However Down were committed to attack and that meant gaps at the back which Róisín Egan and Sarah Harding exploited to score injury time points.

Down had a late goal chance that Dearbhla Magee blasted off the goalie’s stick and over the 

bar before Siobhán Flannery finished the scoring with her fourth goal.

Down must beat Westmeath this weekend to maintain their status in the top flight.

Down: C McGourty, C Caldwell, D Magee (0-1), A Savage, E Rafferty, B Fitzpatrick, B Savage, A Keown, D Savage, A McAleenan, S L Graffin (capt, 0-2), S McCartan, N Mallon (1-12, 6 frees), L Clarke, C Fitzpatrick (0-1).

Subs: S McCartan for C Cowan (HT), A Rogan for E Rafferty (HT).

Offaly: E Clendenman, S Shanahan, T McDonald, L Keena, G Dolan, M Morkan, A Byrne, S Walsh (0-1), A Brennan (0-2), K Kennedy, R Egan (0-1), O Kirwan (0-2), K Kenny (0-1), M Teehan (1-1), S Flannery (4-3, 2 frees).

Subs: S Harding (0-1) for Kennedy (35), S Maher for M Teehan (55)

Referee: Ray Kelly.

Down 1-16

Offaly 5-12