By Pierce O’Reilly
Down 1-10, Sligo 0-12
Early arrivers at Gaelic Park on Sunday enjoyed a spirited game between two sides that have serious aspirations for honors later in the season.
Down served notice of their championship ambitions early this year, and with several new recruits in attack, they look like the genuine article. Last time out, against Kerry, they came from behind to steal victory. On Sunday, they once again had to dig deep to off set a Sligo rally entering the final furlong.
The Mourne men hit the ground running on Sunday, and with early points from Mark Dobbin, they took an early lead. Sligo have struggled, in both the senior and junior levels, to get players to train. Not surprisingly, then, it was their fitness again on Sunday that was suspect from the off. After five minutes they conceded a penalty after some desperate defending and Down marksman Mark Dobbin made no mistake from the spot kick. At the interval the Ulster men led by four points, 1-6 to 0-5, with Dobbin, Darren Quinn and Colin Touhy all to the fore.
Sligo, to their credit, never put their heads down and with Peadar Reynolds orchestrating things around the middle they kept in touch with some good points. The Yeats county had the assistance of a slight breeze in the second half, and with Paul Tuffy and Declan Henry coming more into the game, they narrowed the gap.
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In the past, Down teams would have folded under the pressure, but on this occasion they held their nerve to escape with a one-point advantage. Collie Touhy was their top performer at center back and his distribution and overall work rate was the main reason they held out.
Down: A. Markey, D. Ward, M. McGivern, N. Greenan, C. Tuohy. C. Mathers, A. McGreevy, L. Rooney, C. Turley, D. Quinn 0-1, E. Flynn, M. Dobbins 1-05, A. Rooney 0-1, P. Tunney, M. Annett 0-3.
Sligo: L. McCarthy, K. Hegarty. J. McKenzie, J. Walsh, J. Cribben, K. Caffrey, D.Henry, P. Reynolds, T. McGrath. R. Reynolds 0-5, P. Tuffy 0-1, I. Gannon 0-1, C. McGee 0-1, D. Hynes 0-1, A. Loftus 0-2.