By Brian McDonnell at Cusack Park, Mullingar
All-Ireland Football Qualifier
Down 1-13 Tipperary 0-11
The Tipperary footballers were beaten by Down on Saturday, but not before the Premier well and truly rattled the 2010 All-Ireland finalists.
Indeed, were it not for conceding a misfortunate goal in the fourth minute of first half injury time Peter Creedon’s men looked capable of beating James McCartan’s well-fancied side.
Tipperary had played into an absolute gale in the opening half, but only two points separated the sides in the 39th minute (0-4 to 0-6) when Kevin Duffin’s speculative shot for a point rebounded down off a post, wrong-footed goalkeeper Paul Fitzgerald and Benny Coulter palmed home an undeserved, but absolutely crucial three-pointer.
Tipperary did fight back manfully in the second half with four consecutive points cutting the deficit to just three points (0-11 to 1-11) by the 65th minute, but Down responded in powerful terms with two match-clinching efforts.
Dan Gordon was outstanding at full-back for Down, Ambrose Rogers and Kalum King dominated midfield while Mark Poland looked an obvious candidate for man of the match.
Tipperary’s candidates for a similar accolade were full-back Paddy Codd, centre-back Robbie Kiely and the tireless Peter Acheson.
Brian Fox was absolutely wonderful at wing-back while Michael Quinlivan provided us with several glimpses of his staggering potential.
Down shook off the memory of an 11-point defeat suffered at the hands of Donegal six days previously by racing into a 0-3 to no-score lead inside the opening 11 minutes thanks to an Ambrose Rogers free and two Mark Poland efforts (one free).
The sides then traded two terrific goal-scoring opportunities in the 13th and 14th minutes - Tipp’s Alan Campbell smothered a Mark Poland chance before Tipp spurned a gilt-edged opportunity a minute later. Darren O’Hagan deflected a Michael Quinlivan effort into the path of Alan Maloney who tried to place his effort from close range, but only managed to find a very relieved Brendan McVeigh.
Despite Down adding to their tally in the 22nd and 25th minute thanks to full-back Dan Gordon and Benny Coulter Tipperary were playing quiet well. The Premier now trailed 0-5 to no-score, but in the opening 25 minutes Tipperary had seen Dan Gordon claw three frees out from under his own crossbar.
Tipp finally got off the mark in the 25th minute thanks to a Michael Quinlivan free before Quinlivan set up Peter Acheson who swung over a great effort two minutes later.
In the 28th minute Tipperary were reasonably fortunate to escape when Mark Poland fisted Conor Laverty’s cross over the bar with Paul Fitzgerald’s goal at his mercy to leave the score reading 0-6 to 0-2 in favour of the Ulster men.
In the third minute of first half injury time Michael Quinlivan stroked over a free before the immense Brian Fox booted over a terrific right-footed effort to cut the gap to just two points. Just then however Benny Coulter stole in for his game-defining goal and the sides retired with five between them at the break - 0-4 to 1-6.
The 3,592-strong attendance expected Tipperary to seize the initiative immediately after the break, but it was Down who dominated the opening six minutes of the second half. Indeed, Down fired three points (Mark Poland, a Kevin Duffin free and another from Benny Coulter) to help their side into a 1-9 to 0-5 lead. That lead could have been significantly greater, but Tipp avoided disaster in the 39th minute when a collision between Paul Fitzgerald and Conor Laverty saw the ball ricochet off Andrew Morrissey and hit a post.
Two terrific points from Philip Austin and a magnificent Michael Quinlivan effort from distance in the 48th minute cut the deficit to five points once more (0-7 to 1-9) before Down responded in kind. A fine individual effort from Ambrose Rogers in the 50th minute was added to seven minutes later by Benny Coulter and Down led 1-11 to 0-7 with time fast running out.
Tipperary then opted to introduce a series of substitutes which had a rousing effect on Peter Creedon’s side.
Indeed, Tipp battled their way back into this entertaining contest with four successive points.
In the 58th minute an Alan Maloney effort launched the onslaught.
Four minutes later Maloney added a free following a foul on the impressive Bernard O’Brien.
Brian Fox then set up Maloney for a sweet left-footed point in the 64th minute and when Brian Mulvihill belted over another point a minute later a Tipperary comeback looked on.
With the gap now down to three (0-11 to 1-11) anything seemed possible, that is until Down pieced together a patient attack which involved eight different players before Mark Poland finally kicked a fine point from a tight angle in the 67th minute.
A minute later Ambrose Rogers punched over his third point from play. And, with that Tipperary’s chances of playing in the All-Ireland quarter-finals evaporated.
Tipperary: Paul Fitzgerald (Fethard), Andrew Morrissey (Galtee Rovers), Paddy Codd (Killenaule), Ciarán McDonald (Aherlow), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), Robbie Kiely (Arravale Rovers), Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty, 0-1), George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers), Hugh Coghlan (Portlaoise, Laois), Richie Ryan (Éire Óg Annacarty), Philip Austin (Borrisokane, captain, 0-2), Donagh Leahy (Arravale Rovers), Alan Maloney (Rockwell Rovers, 0-3, 0-1 free), Peter Acheson (Moyle Rovers, 0-1), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials, 0-3, 0-2 frees). Subs: (HT) Bernard O’Brien (Aherlow) for Richie Ryan, (53rd) Brian Mulvihill (Moyle Rovers, 0-1) for Philip Austin, (54th) Robbie Costigan (Cahir) for George Hannigan, (62nd) Martin Dunne (Moyle Rovers) for Hugh Coghlan, (62nd) John O’Callaghan (Ballyporeen) for Robbie Kiely.
Down: Brendan McVeigh, Niall McPharland, Dan Gordon (0-1), Darren O’Hagan, Aidan Carr, Conor Garvey, Brendan McArdle (0-1), Ambrose Rogers (0-4, 0-1 free), Kalum King, Conor Maginn, Mark Poland (0-4, 0-1 free), Kevin Duffin (0-1, 0-1 free), Eoin McCartan, Brendan Coulter (1-2), Conor Laverty. Subs: (48th) Kevin McKernan for Aidan Carr, (52nd) Liam Doyle for Niall McParland, (55th) Dónal O’Hare for Eoin McCartan, (59th) Aidan Brannigan for Kevin Duffin.
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).