By Mike Fitzpatrick
Rockland 2-22, Down 1-5
What was essentially Down’s last throw of the dice ended in this heavy defeat to their upstate Junior ‘A’ football rivals Rockland Sunday at Gaelic Park. Down had to win to stand a chance of participating further in this year’s competition, but within minutes of this tie opening, it became obvious that it was to be Rockland smiling at the end of the day.
Rockland went on the attack immediately, proving once again to the Gaelic Park faithful that just because a team has already qualified for the latter stages of the competition, it does not mean that they will just roll over and die for their rivals.
Rockland were rampant throughout the first half, and attacked with an urgency that they must surely hope to continue for the rest of their campaign.
Opening with early scores from Ger Heavin and Gerry O’Riordan, Rockland proceeded to dominate the first quarter of the game. They quickly racked up an impressive lead, with Heavin, O’Riordan, Dave Fitzgerald and Mike Pender all contributing to the scoresheet, with Down’s solitary contribution being a point from Collie Mathers. At halftime, the lads from upstate led their rivals by a scoreline of 2-12 to 0-2. Though Down threatened to pull back at stages throughout the first half, a lack of communication between crucial departments among their ranks proved to be their Waterloo. Goals from Rockland’s Emmet Woods and the unstoppable Heavin really took the wind from Down’s sails, and it became obvious before the break that Rockland would win the tie.
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After the interval, Down midfielder Collie Mathers upped a gear or two and hammered in a few points, but, unfortunately for the Ulster men, the damage had already been done. Rockland continued to pound forward, at times needlessly showing a greed for goal when even points would have been more than enough. A scoring spree from Heavin and O’Riordan in the second half put the nails in Down’s coffin, and Rockland consolidated their position as the No. 3 team in the group. Down were unlucky in that Marty McGivern, doubtlessly one of their most consistent performers of the season was forced to play with a hamstring injury, limiting his participation in the game and therefore robbing Down of one of their more dominant positions. Rockland move into the final four, and must hope that they can provide another performance like this in the semi finals.
Rockland: Jimmy Dwyer, Denis McHugh, Tom O’Riordan, Jimmy O’Flynn, Tommy Acton, Ken Mortimer, Mike Joe Hennessy (0-1), Paddy Corcoran (0-2), Tom McHugh, Dave Fitzgerald (0-1), Billy Horan (0-1), Gerry O’Riordan (0-5), Mike Pender (0-2), Ger Heavin (1-8), Emmet Woods (1-0), Subs: Gerry McGowan (0-2), Tommy Fennell, Brendan Ward.
Down: John Morgan, Chris McManus, Ronan Kearney, Kevin Shepherd, Marty McGivern, Liam Murray, Jake Rooney, Collie Mathers (0-3), James Morgan, Plunkett Tuohy, Adrian Browne, Martin rooney, Pauric Tunney (0-1), Ciaran McCabe (1-0), Stephen Magee. Sub: Ronan Mulligan.