Football League Division One: Down 1-07 1-15 Dublin

Down's Conall McGovern and Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin in action at Pairc Esler
Down's Conall McGovern and Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin in action at Pairc Esler

Down produced an improved display but still fell to an eight-point defeat to All-Ireland champions Dublin in Newry.

The Mourne men are set for relegation from Division One after a fifth straight league defeat as Dublin moved closer to a league semi-final.

Down took a surprise 1-2 to 0-1 lead after eight minutes thanks to a rare goalkeeping mistake by Stephen Cluxton.

However, Dublin responded with an unanswered 1-7 with Cormac Costello netting for the All-Ireland champions.

Down hit the woodwork twice in the last few minutes, but Dublin were always able to raise their game any time the Mournemen threatened to push them close.

Cluxton's blunder as he allowed a Donal O'Hare attempt at a point to slip through his fingers gave Down a shock early boost.

However, Down suffered a blow seconds later when Kevin McKernan picked up a harsh black card for a pull-down, though his replacement Joe Murphy kicked a point with his first touch to stretch Down's lead to four.

However, Costello's 18th-minute goal put the Dubs 1-4 to 1-2 ahead, after Kevin McManamon's initial shot had been blocked.

As Dublin began to run at will through the Down defence, the home side were held scoreless for 27 minutes before Donal O'Hare's 35th-minute free left them trailing by 1-8 to 1-3 at the break.

Dublin hit three of the first four points after the break to stretch their lead out to seven after 43 minutes, McManamon chipping over a point after Down 'keeper Michael Cunningham saved his near-post shot.

The Dubs took their foot off the gas for a spell, and Down took advantage with three points in a row with Kilcoo pair Darragh O'Hanlon and Paul Devlin scoring from play.

However, a Dean Rock 45 and Jonny Cooper and Paddy Andrews points killed off any hopes of a Down comeback.

Paul Devlin wasted a glorious late goal chance and Gerard McGovern hit the woodwork late on as Down kept battling but the game was already beyond them by that stage.

Down manager Eamonn Burns praised his team's display after the game and confirmed recent reports that Benny Coulter, Dan Gordon and Martin Clarke are unlikely to return to the squad this year.