The scoreline of Down seconds opening Junior 3 game against Cookstown fourths does not reflect the courage and commitment shown by the locals. Forced to travel with just 10 men to Coolnafranky, Willie Price's side were heroes to a man in the first half in particular and only 90 seconds of madness with 15 minutes to go in the second robbed them of what would have been a well deserved point.

Nine players were unavailable for Down last weekend and if the seconds had had the luxury of travelling north with a full side, they could well have taken more than a point from the game.

Gary Tate had a particularly impressive debut, while Raymond and Trevor McClurg were magnificent in the middle of the park. Price kept things tight at the back, while Stephen Cullum and Richard Tarbotton, worked hard in a thankless task up front.

It was all one-way traffic in the first half, with the home side swarming all over Down. But the defence held firm despite the pressure. Down's 'keeper was overworked, while his opposite number was a virtual spectator for the entire game.

Full-backs Stephen Fitzsimons and Clifford Lennon had their work cut out, but battled bravely to stem the flow of red shirts swarming towards them. Down can be satisfied with the performance and while they conceded four goals late on, at least three could and should have been stopped.

Cullum and Tarbotton were making a nuisance of themselves up front, while the McClurgs fought like tigers in the middle of the park. Down were delighted to reach the interval with the score locked at 0-0 and while they new Cookstown would come out with all guns blazing at the start of the second, they maintained their composure.

Raymond McClurg was unlucky not to give his side the lead when his shot struck the base of the post, while Cullum also went close. A Tate short corner strike was also blocked.

With 15 minutes to go, Down were holding out for a draw. But some sloppy play cost them dear. Cookstown were awarded a free hit outside the D, but a rash tackle after the whistle went prompted the umpire to rightly award a short corner. As so often happens, the home side scored.

The goal upset Down's rhythm and 30 seconds later Cookstown carved a hole in the defence to make it 2-0. With 10 minutes to go Down's 'keeper was too casual dealing with a lofted shot which crept into the top corner, before the home side rounded off the scoring from the penalty stroke which again was needlessly conceded.

Down can take great heart from their performance and will be looking for a win at home to Bangor fourths this Saturday.