DOWN 2-10, FERMANAGH 0-11
The closing stages of a game that had lurched toward Fermanagh at the start of the second half, when Down defender Brian Burns was sent off for a second yellow-card offense, were dominated by the winners who provided a flashback to the All-Ireland triumph of 1991 when James McCartan and Mickey Linden were introduced as substitutes.
Not that either came off the bench as some nostalgia trip for manager Paddy O’Rourke, who just happened to be the winning captain 12 years ago. Linden, in his 21st championship season, was as sprightly as any 40-year-old would expect, while McCartan scored the goal that turned the contest in his county’s favor.
Fermanagh had battled back from a 6-point deficit with Ryan Keenan and Stephen Maguire to the fore, but following a one-two between Michael Walsh and Shane King, the ball broke for McCartan, who fired an unstoppable shot to the net. That put Down 3 points ahead and they controlled the closing stages with relative ease.
Down’s Greg McCartan and Sean Ward gradually got the upper hand on Paul Brewster and Marty McGrath at midfield, and when Dan Gordon was fouled in the act of scoring just before the interval, McCartan stepped up to score from the spot kick to put Down four points clear at the changeover.
Fermanagh now take on Cavan in a qualifier on Sunday.
MEATH 2-10, MONAGHAN 0-12
Following their loss to Kildare in the Leinster football championship, last Saturday’s qualifier against Monaghan at Clones was being viewed with some trepidation by Meath followers, but Sean Boylan’s team destroyed Monaghan with an impressive first-half display that has made them live contenders for the All-Ireland title.
The 4-point gap between the counties at the end failed to reflect Meath’s vast superiority in those opening 35 minutes. They gave their opponents a master class in scoring as they powered into a 2-8 to 0-2 lead, and if Monaghan came back into the game after the break, it was more because the winners had eased back knowing that the victory was guaranteed.
There were certainly no signs of fatigue as Meath in the early stages effectively killed off the contest with a string of superbly worked scores. With Nigel Crawford and Nigel Nestor back after injury, and with Trevor Giles at his imperious best, an inexperienced Monaghan defense was punished time after time. Graham Geraghty flicked home a seventh-minute goal and, following a flurry of points, David Crimmins finished off the half with a driving run and shot for Meath’s second goal.
Rory Woods, with 6 points, including four from frees, and Paul Finlay, who kicked four, gave Monaghan some respectability during the second half.
ARMAGH 0-15, ANTRIM 0-12
Armagh’s defense of their All-Ireland crown is still on track, but they had to survive a determined challenge from Antrim in last Saturday’s qualifier at Casement Park. Despite showing few signs of last season’s form, Armagh will have benefited from this outing and must still be regarded as one of the championship’s strong contenders.
Antrim’s persistence over the 70 minutes was as much of a surprise as Armagh’s inability to translate their superiority to the scoreboard. With Kevin Madden and Mark McCrory always threatening for Antrim, Armagh were only able to relax when they moved into a 0-14 to 0-9 lead in the final quarter.
An excellent display by Steven McDonnell, who shot six points from play, staved off a shock result, while Oisin McConville was also on target, with 7 points (five frees). Madden’s 9-point total was an impressive return. However, he could have turned the game on its head in the closing stages when he failed to take a goal chance by firing over the bar. The nearest Armagh came to a goal was when Paul McGrane punched the ball against the crossbar.
DONEGAL 0-16, SLIGO 0-11
Donegal, so abject and abysmal in their championship outing, made up for that earlier failure in some measure when they emphatically defeated Sligo in last Sunday’s qualifier in Ballybofey. Not that they can be considered as a team that will be around in September, Donegal will take heart from this performance as they await the draw for the next round.
Stung by the criticism following their championship loss to Fermanagh, several key players, such as Adrian Sweeney, Jimmy McGuinness and John Gildea, delivered big performances. While Gildea was influential in midfield, his unheralded partner, Stephen McDermott, was a revelation, scoring three points from play.
As for Sligo, the optimism generated by almost reaching last year’s semifinals has petered out. With Eamonn O’Hara troubled by a groin injury and not operating at full capacity, Peter Ford’s side were flat and a number of wides following a bright start cost them dearly. They badly needed a goal when Donegal extended their lead to 7 points in the closing stages, but it never looked like coming.
ROSCOMMON 2-9, LEITRIM 1-11
Leading by 2 points 2 minutes into injury time in last weekend’s qualifier at Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim were denied a deserved victory by a last-ditch Roscommon goal.
In the end, the survival of Tommy Carr’s team was guaranteed by substitute David O’Connor, who a couple of minutes earlier had signaled his arrival with an inauspicious wide. But after Nigel Dineen’s shot had been blocked by a defender, O’Connor was on hand to scramble the ball over the line.
Roscommon had the better of the first half, but Donal Brennan’s goal meant that Leitrim were level 1-4 to 0-7 at the changeover. The winners struggled during the second half until Karl Mannion’s goal, but Leitrim pulled two clear once more until O’Connor’s dramatic intervention.
OFFALY 1-12, CLARE 1-8
Offaly survived the sending off of Finbar Cullen and still came through last Saturday’s qualifier at Ennis. Cullen got his marching orders for a second yellow card offense early in the second half, but his departure seemed to bolster Offaly’s challenge and they fully deserved their winning margin.
With Ciaran McManus once more making a major impression — four frees and some intelligent distribution — and with Neville Coughlan winning plenty of ball, Offaly were 1-6 to 0-6 in front at the break after Niall McNamee’s goal. Despite being down a man, it was Offaly who maintained control as Clare inexplicably failed to score for 17 minutes during the second half.
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TIPPERARY 1-14, CARLOW 0-13
Tiperary are through to the next round after last Saturday’s convincing qualifier victory over Carlow at Thurles, and if the Munster county would like to dwell on a decent collective performance, that would be inappropriate as once again Declan Browne was the difference.
A player who would surely find a place in any team in Ireland, Browne showed his All-Star pedigree with a sublime total of 1-9.
KERRY 2-15, DERRY 1-16
Kerry booked themselves in the fourth round of the hurling qualifier series when they edged out Derry at Tullamore. With Ollie Collins accounting for 15 of Derry’s total with 13 frees, the Ulster county were unable to spread their scoring around and goals by John Mike Dooley and Michael Slattery were crucial for Kerry, who now meet Limerick.