Ahead of their semi-final clash today with Kerry, Down had been gaining a reputation as a free scoring team of late, mustering up 2-38 in their last two games.
It looked as if this trend was set to continue this afternoon in Páirc Esler as they chalked up a 1-01 to 0-1 point lead over Kerry barely five minutes into the game, the crucial Down goal coming from Brendan Ennis putting it up to the Kingdom County right from the start in Newry.
Kerry came into life approaching the midway point of the first half. Their forwards were finding their range and the points tally was started to be added to precisely and consistently. From being 3 points down they were leading 1-09 to 1-04 as 29 minutes showed on the scoreboard, thanks to a hugely important goal of their own.
This had Down rattled and Kerry began to grab a stronghold on the game. The points were flowing now and the momentum was with the Kerry men as they went in at the break leading by six points, 1-12 to 1-06.
Down came out for the second half all guns blazing and quickly got on the scoreboard thanks to a good point from their talisman Gareth Johnson. However, Kerry quickly struck back to halt a Down fight back scoring three points in a row to stretch their lead to eight points.
Both teams scored twice more before Kerry went down a player due to a sending off. With ten minutes left could Down make the most of their man advantage? Well, as if one sending off wasn’t good enough news for the Down supporters that were almost straight away followed by a second Kerry man getting his marching orders.
There was four points between the teams with four minutes left and it was beginning to look like Kerry were crumbling.
The great escape continued for Down as they notched up point after point, and with one minute left to go Johnson converted a free close in to bring the match level 1-17 to 1-17.
Down were now in the ascendency and surely if there was to be a winning score now it would be to them. It wasn’t the case however, as Kerry managed to get a free of their own from the kick off which they duly converted. The final whistle went in Down, Kerry 1-18 Down 1-17.
An exciting finish to the game and a very unlucky loss for Down however it is Kerry who now go forward to face Wicklow in the final of the Christy Ring Cup.
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