Down ladies off and running in bid for All-Ireland glory

Down ladies off and running in bid for All-Ireland glory

5 June 2024

DOWN ladies put on another impressive display in their first-round All-Ireland intermediate tie, easing past Cavan by seven points at Redhills GAA, Cavan. 

Coming off last season’s All-Ireland Junior Football Championship win and their Ulster success last month, Caoibhe Sloan and Peter Lynch’s Down side are looking like serious contenders to get back to Croke Park again this season.

In Meghan Doherty and Laoise Duffy, Down have two footballers who are among some of the best players in the country at the moment. 

Doherty’s power and Duffy’s pace proved too much for Cavan on the day, but it is the team dynamic and work rate that must be most pleasing for the Down management.

Down proved they are not a two-woman team as this was a win built on hard work and stellar performances throughout the side.

After Niamh McClorey, Sarah Dougherty (Down), and Christina Charters (Cavan) traded scores in the opening spell of the match, Down really took control of the game in a devastating ten-minute spell. 

Laoise Duffy, Vivienne McCormack, and two Niamh King scores stretched Down’s led to five points as they pressed the Cavan kick-out and punished the hosts with clinical finishing.

Cavan hit back with points from Ally Cahill and Sinead Livingstone, but these scores were cancelled out with another two Niamh King scores. 

The second of these was a gem. Collecting the ball wide on the left, King jinked past her marker and powered the ball over the bar from 25 metres out.

With the half almost up, Teconnaught’s Aimee Greene got another great score for the visitors. Hitting the ball with the outside of her right boot from a tight angle, the ball brushed off the far post and over the crossbar to give Down a lead of six. 

This was a dominant half for Down, who, in truth, could have gone into the break with an even greater lead if they had taken more of their chances.

Half-time score: Cavan 0-3 Down 0-9.

The second half was a different matter as Cavan pressed forward and dominated large spells. A converted free from Cavan’s Sinead Livingstone in the opening minutes of the second half reduced the lead to five, but Down continued to look dangerous when on the ball. 

Laoise Duffy took a good score to return the gap to six and then further extended the lead with another lovely point when Bredagh’s forward’s turn of pace opened up the Cavan defence and she cleared the bar.

Niamh King pointed after great work from a Niamh Scullion interception and pass, and at this stage, Down looked comfortable.

Cavan stepped up their tempo, and three unanswered points from Ally Cahill and two by Butlersbridge’s powerful forward Niamh McCorry got Cavan back into the game.

Cavan was throwing everything at Down now, looking for a goal that would set up an exciting finish. 

But the Down defence held firm. Fullback Ciara Byrne was outstanding, commanding the Mourne back line and not giving Cavan any chance to get past.

Down’s forwards were wasting a lot of good chances in the second half, but Bryansford’s Natalie McKibbin got a much-needed point for Down, ending a 12-minute drought without scoring. 

Sarah McCabe took a great score for Cavan to keep the pressure on.

A Niamh King goal near the end of the game put the game to bed. Niamh Rice’s cross-field ball fell into Natasha Ferris’s arms, and a quick fist pass across to King was finished in style as she rounded her defender and slipped the ball under the goalkeeper and into the net. 

Another converted Livingstone free for Cavan finished the scoring in the game with Down winning by seven. 

A fantastic win on the road for Down, who now face Westmeath in Páirc Esler.

Following the full-time whistle, Down’s Niamh Scullion reflected on her team’s winning performance.

“Conditions were tough, but I felt as though the Ulster final had prepared us,” she said. 

“It took us a while to settle into the game, but after that, we adapted to the heat.

“We defended very well and held them to mostly frees, which was great for us. Our defence works so well in unison,” she continued.

“Our full-back, Ciara, is excellent and a real leader for us, and her performance today was outstanding. It’s a lot easier to defend well when you have players like her around you.

“We are definitely excited to get back to Páirc Esler again and hopefully get good support behind us.”

She added: “Westmeath are a very good, experienced team who have recently won intermediate, so it will be a great test to see where we are.”

Down: McGivern; Greene (0-1), Byrne, Sands, Mulvenna, McKibbin (0-1), O Duffy, Doherty (capt), Scullion, King (1-5), L Duffy (0-4), McClory (0-1), Dougherty (0-1), McCormack (0-1), Fitzpatrick.

Subs: Ferris, O’Higgins, Laverty, Rice, Howlett.