22 JAN 2020
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Carelessness costs Down

15 January 2020

Paddy Tally could barely hide his annoyance with both the first half performance of his players and the second half decision of the Referee to black card Johnny Flynn as they fell to defeat against Tyrone on Sunday. 

The opening 35 minutes saw Down squander possession time and time again to allow Tyrone to dominate, while after the break, just as the Mournemen looked to be getting a foothold in the game, Flynn was sent to the sin bin by Derry whistler Dan Mullen and any slim chance of a comeback was extinguished almost immediately. 

“I’m very disappointed with the first half. The start of the game, before we knew it, we were five or six points down and you’re always chasing the game after that,” bemoaned Tally.  

“I think in the second half, we showed a bit of heart and a bit of spirit and there was a really good period for the first 20 to 25 minutes of the second half where we seemed to be in control. I think we scored six points without reply to get back into it and then we got a black card and went down to 14 men. It allowed Tyrone much more possession and then we missed crucial chances. When we were four down, we missed three or four crucial chances with the black card having a big impact in the latter stages of the game. 

“I thought it very soft,” the Down boss said of Flynn’s dismissal.  

“I thought there were a lot harder decisions in the match that weren’t pulled. There were a couple of hand trips that were let go and I thought the black card was a really soft call and it’s a game changing thing in a game like that, especially when you lose a man when you have momentum and you’re going well. But listen, it’s something we have to learn about. If you lose a player in the modern game, it’s very difficult to play without them. 

“We could have been down to two points at that stage and then that would have been the time to hammer home. I’d like to have seen the last 10 minutes 15 on 15, with a two or three-point game, because the momentum was all with us at that stage. But really, we left ourselves with too much to do. If you play a first half like that, you’re leaving yourselves with a mountain to climb and against a very good team you’re not going to climb that mountain.”

After Frank Burns had missed what should have been an easy point in the second minute, Tyrone got their first goal just a minute later and from there on in, the writing was on the wall for Tally’s men. 

After Cory Quinn had lost the ball in a promising position, Tyrone sped forward, but Down still had another opportunity to clear just outside their own ’45, but Ross Carr fumbled his pick-up and Niall Sludden was fouled as the ball went loose. Sludden didn’t wait a second before dinking the ball forward into the path of Conall McCann and the Killyclogher man sent John O’Hare the wrong way to fire home. 

With the wind at Tyrone’s backs, Darren McCurry wasted no time in adding their opening point shortly after, before Ronan O’Neill’s free made it 1-2 to 0-0 with just five minutes on the clock. 

Down did get on the scoreboard two minutes later, when Conor Poland fed Dornan and he swivelled to hook over the bar before Poland turned from provider to score on nine minutes, as he collected a Middleton pass to register the Mournemen’s second of the afternoon. 

However, despite seeing plenty of the ball, Down were guilty on far too many occasions of coughing up easy possession, either being dispossessed while on the ball or, more often, their final ball was poor in terms of setting up scoring possibilities.  

Further points form McCurry, McCann (2), O’Neill and Burns put Tyrone 1-7 to 0-2 up with 22 minutes gone before Down responded through a Pat Havern free and Poland from play either side of a McCurry free, to close the gap to seven, eight minutes before the end of the half. 

But Tyrone simply put their foot on the gas for the remainder of the first period, with the superb McCurry adding three more to make it 1-12 to 0-4 at the break.

Down made three changes at the break, with the Burren duo of Donal O’Hare and Liam Kerr replacing Liam Middleton and Ciaran Harney, while Daniel Guinness came on for Ross Carr.

That seemed to give Tally’s men the impetus and after O’Hare had pointed on 40 minutes, Havern and Poland followed suit to reduce the deficit to eight. Although McCurry responded with a free seven minutes later and John O’Hare pulled off a superb stop to deny Tyrone sub Michael O’Neill, it was Down who were in the ascendancy and Darren O’Hagan pointed on 54 before they got the goal their dominance deserved two minutes later. 

A swift break saw the ball played through to Kerr who drew defenders out before playing it inside to Cory Quinn and the Mayobridge man produced a clever instinctive finish to hit the net and make it 1-13 to 1-8. 

However, just when it seemed an unlikely comeback was on the cards, Kerr missed an easy chance before Flynn was black carded and with the new rules meaning a 10-minute sin-bin with no replacement, Down were forced to play the remainder of normal time with 14 men. 

Sub Ross McGarry did cut the gap to four on 63 minutes, but the Red Hands used their man advantage after that, with goalkeeper Benny Gallen converting a ‘45 before they killed the game off on 69 minutes when Tiernan McCann produced a lovely sidestep to deceive Darren O’Hagan before playing in Ronan McHugh and the sub blasted home to make it 2-14 to 1-9.

Ronan McNamee and McHugh tagged on points before Kerr notched a free at the other end with the last kick of the game deep into stoppage time.   

“We were very careless and I was very disappointed with our turnover count in the first half. That was the killer, as Tyrone are a team that thrive on turnovers and we handed them the ball time and time again today,” Tally admitted.  

“Their first two scores, they got 1-1 off us giving the ball to them and that just set the tone. We were playing into a low sun in the first half and that proved very difficult. Some of the boys were saying that they actually couldn’t see the men in front of them, but that’s just the luck of the draw. In saying that, some of it was very, very careless and it was disappointing.”

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