Benny saves Down in extra time

June 1, 2010

Down 1-15 Donegal 2-10 (AET)

Both teams started as selected though the players switched positions time and again throughout the match. James Colgan was again deployed as sweeper for the Mourne men while Martin Clarke was rarely seen in the full forward line. 

Kalum King picked up an early yellow card for a petty offence highlighted more so given the officials inability to spot an elbow to Damian Rafferty’s face moments later. Kevin McKernan was lucky to get away with yellow minutes later as he exacted some retribution for the blinkered officials’ inaction.

These two stoppages delayed the first score until the eighth minute when Donegal’s Molloy pointed. It got worse for Down soon after when an attack ended with a collision between Daniel Hughes and John Clarke and Donegal swept up the field for Molloy to goal off a Murphy catch.

Benny Coulter wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Ambrose Rogers and he played a captain’s part giving a man of the match performance and steadying his side with a thirteenth minute reply. That score was quickly followed by points from John Clarke (play) and Mark Poland (free) to reduce the deficit to the minimum, 0-3 to 1-1 with Poland busily effective for Down at this time.

Down were dealt a second body blow when Molloy’s shot for a point came down off the post into the welcoming arms of Dunne and he had time to fire under McVeigh for another Donegal goal.

Down again showed great fight to score the next two points from Martin Clarke and Daniel Hughes but other chances went a begging including a fine save from Benny Coulter after great play by Down’s other star performer of the half Damian Rafferty.

Molloy extended the Donegal lead from a free but they too were wayward with their finishing and Poland put two between them again. Down just could not string two scores together and Molloy scored his third point before Hughes brought the half to a close on a 2-3 to 0-7 score line.

Declan Rooney was another who had a good opening half keeping Murphy scoreless and relatively ineffective.

There were no changes at the break. Benny Coulter if anything was trying too hard while Martin Clarke was finding his Championship debut challenging with just flashes of brilliance to show for his efforts.

Murphy scored a free to put a goal in it with Poland replying from a similar opportunity. Conor Maginn came on for John Clarke and Down switched Hughes and McComiskey to the full forward line but they lacked the physical presence to make an impact. Donegal substitute Hanlon moved them three clear again and despite the rough and tumble of the Championship fayre Down responded the next three points to level by the fifty fourth minute.

Martin Clarke set up Hughes with a quick low pass and he notched the first. Clarke angled over another after good play from McComiskey and Benny Coulter burst back into the game with a great move involving Garvey and McArdle before splitting the posts to a huge cheer. It was noticeable now that Donegal attacks were being broken up but Down still could not complete any counter attacks with a lead score.

Indeed it was Donegal who hit the front when Walsh pointed after a blatant push on McArdle was let go. Down had Gordon at full forward with Peter Fitzpatrick at centre field and O’Hagan came on for McKernan but it was Coulter who drew them level at 0-12 to 2-6 in the sixty seventh minute. Gordon was causing problems and eventually forced a save from Durcan. Up stepped Clarke having scuffed two previous fifties but with a new ball in play he effortlessly stroked it over the bar to put Down ahead for the first time.

However if ever a referee played for a draw this one did and substitute Kavannagh equalized with a soft free in stoppage time to force extra time.

Stephen Kearney came into the Down defence for extra time and the heat was definitely having an effect on the teams. There were bad misses at either end before Coulter put Down ahead. Donegal had a shot ricochet off a Down defender and onto the post before Clarke picked out Hughes with an inch perfect pass over the top and he pointed. Conor Laverty came on for Poland.

From the throw in to restart the second half of extra time the ball came to McHugh and he halved the Down lead. King made a great catch and hold but all around him players were showing signs of tiredness and from Down possession Donegal won another free from which McFadden levelled.  Ronan Murtagh came on.

The momentum was against Down but then men of the match are men of the match because they upset the odds and Coulter took a Clarke pass to race in, go around Durcan and under a heavy challenge send the ball to the net.

Substitute Waide pulled one back, McVeigh plucked another from above the bar and Coulter back in his own defence came away with the ball as the final whistle sounded.

Down: B McVeigh; B McArdle, D Rooney, D Rafferty; K McKernan, J Colgan, C Garvey; D Gordon, K King; D Hughes (0-4), M Poland (0-3), P McComiskey; B Coulter (1-4), J Clarke (0-1), M Clarke (0-3). Subs: C Maginn, P Fitzpatrick, D O’Hagan. Extra time: S Kearney, C Laverty, R Murtagh.