Down seconds won their first game of the season at Malone Park last weekend, but they left it late.

Paul Tate was the home side's hero, popping up with the all-important winner with just four minutes to go. His clinical short corner strike broke the deadlock in a game which looked to be heading for a draw, which would have delighted the Donegal men.

As it turned out, they were left deflated by Tate who along with Paul Neill was an inspiration on a beating hot afternoon more akin to cricket, than hockey.

Shaw McVeigh and Peter Simpson made their home debuts for Down and they also impressed, with McVeigh's energy and pace something the locals need to capitalise over the coming weeks and months, while Simpson, who started in the middle of the park before having to move to left back following an injury to Clifford Lennon, also gave a good account of himself.

Games between Down and Raphoe are always keenly contested affairs which are always played in the right spirit and last Saturday was no different as they both went for the win.

In fact, it was the visitors who piled on the early pressure with the Down defence of Chris Ferguson, Clifford and Chris Lennon and the outstanding Gary Tate all kept on their toes as the midfield ahead of them struggled to mark men.

At the other end, Philip Brown went close with one effort and McVeigh also saw a half chance flash past the wrong side of the post. Paul Tate also went close, but the Raphoe goal remained in tact.

Neill was causing all sorts of problems, intelligently shielding the ball when he had to and looking for the killer pass inside the full-backs when he could. He also dropped back to cover when the need arose, with his non-stop running a feature of his play on the day.

Raphoe were awarded a few short corners in the first half but the one shot they did produce was saved and the danger cleared. James Cunningham and Gary Brown worked hard in the middle of the park as the young Raphoe side never stopped running and chasing.

In the second period Down were keen to convert home advantage into a win, but it was a struggle. Cunningham whipped over a cross which Brown will feel he should have converted, while Neill looked as though he was about to open the scoring midway through the half.

He worked his way into the right hand side of the penalty area, but instead of shooting, unselfishly slipped the ball inside for Brown whose effort was blocked. Tate also went close and Down thought they should have been awarded a penalty stroke when a goal-bound shot struck the 'keeper's and ricocheted on to the foot of defender on the line.

Raphoe managed only one effort on goal in the second period when a free hit into the penalty area was deflected goalwards, only to hit the 'keeper's pads and rebound to safety.

With time running out, Tate produced that little bit of magic to seal the win. His short corner strike was so powerful that it was through the 'keeper before he had time to move. In the closing minutes, Raphoe threw men forward in search of a dramatic equaliser, but the Down defence held firm.