There were 3 Ballyvarley hurlers involved in the opening match of the All-Ireland Lorie Meagher Cup between South Down and Tyrone. James McGrath and Colm O'Neill were at left half back and right full back respectively with Paul O'Neill, returning from injury, on the bench.
South Down won the game by three points against a Tyrone side that play in the league above them.
Match report from Down Website:
Tyrone 3-9 South Down 5-6
If goals win games, it is not difficult to see how South Down overcame a fancied Tyrone in the first round of the All Ireland Lorie Meagher Cup in Omagh.
Tyrone play a division above the Mourne men in the National League, but their superior hurling skills were no match for the sheer hunger exhibited throughout the game by South Down. Four goals from Liatroim’s Aidan Brown and one from Ballela’s Mal Magee laid the foundation for an impressive win against a Tyrone team which showed superior hurling skills, better team work and a stronger physical presence throughout the field.
With ten minutes gone Brown and Magee had grabbed a goal each, both scores coming from parried shots by the keeper. Points from frees by Liam Morgan and John Murphy and a second goal from Aidan Brown gave Down a half-time score of 3-2. Tyrone had managed only 1-3 in reply, even though they were playing with the aid of a very strong wind.
By 48 minutes Brown had scored two more goals, one from a goalmouth scramble and one through a clear shot from the edge of the square. But by now Tyrone were coming more into the game. They had managed a flicked shot to the net on 44 minutes and as the half progressed they gradually closed the scoring gap.
After 56 minutes Down were ahead by 5-4 to 2-5. Ten minutes later they led by a single point, having conceded 1-4 without reply. On 68 minutes they won a free 50 metres from the Tyrone goal and, on a day when free-taking was not going well for Down, John Murphy took responsibility for the poc. He placed it firmly between the posts and Tyrone’s head went down. Their comeback had been halted and John Brown added a point from play in injury time to seal a memorable Down victory.
South Down displayed one strength in this game – hunger. But they also showed too many old failings. They managed 18 wides, including seven from scoreable frees. Tyrone had eight wides including three from frees.
It was a good win but there is much work to be done. Too many Down players have not yet overcome their unwillingness to pass the ball to a colleague in a better position and more of them need to recognise that the role and style they adopt in club hurling is not suitable for the inter-county scene. Marking was poor during Tyrone’s period of second-half dominance.
They also need more tactical awareness. The half-backs won most of their short poc-outs against the breeze. But in the second half the poc-outs from Damian Kearns were landing on a Down half forward line, and sometimes further, but few of the high dropping balls were won, putting immediate pressure on the Down defence.
But a win is a win and South Down are now only two matches away from an All-Ireland final appearance. They showed great guts in grinding out this victory. With a bit more team-work they need fear no one.
South Down: D Kearns, L Deegan, B McAleenan, C O’Neill, J Brown (0-2, 0-1 free), PP McCartan, J McGrath, P McAleenan (0-1), J Murphy (0-2 frees), M Magee (1-0), D Morgan (Capt), A McGuinness, A Brown (4-0), E McGuinness, L Morgan (0-1 free). Subs: B Morgan for A Brown (69 mins.)