A CONOR McMenamin strike helped County Down to an excellent draw againt 2010 winners Etoile Lusitana in their opening Milk Cup match at Parkway in Comber on Saturday.
Jamie Sharvin and TJ Murray tested Etoile keeper Khadime Ndiaye in the opening five minutes as Down sounded out their opponents.
Midway through the opening half, Abdouaye Daffe’s goal-bound header was easily gathered by Down custodian Craig Barnett.
The local lads took a 25th minute lead thanks to some fine closing down. A mix-up between Ndiaye and Eliezer Correia Ca in the Senegalese backline gave Conor McMenamin a sight of goal. McMenamin showed cool composure in slotting the ball into the bottom corner.
Down went close to increasing their advantage five minutes into the second half. Ndiaye saved theatrically from McMenamin’s 20-yard free-kick.
Etoile responded with a great individual Sidibouyeu Badiane effort. Barnett produced a finger-tip save to maintain the County Down lead.
The visitors levelled with 28 minutes remaining. Daffe turned his marker on the edge of the box before smashing past Barnett.
With an hour gone and Down beginning to tire, Etoile almost went in front. Daffe chested down to Baba Sow Basse whose half-volley clipped the top of the bar.
Basse wasn’t finished there. With three minutes remaining, his left foot volley brought another fine save from Barnett - who made sure CountyDown held on for a magnificent draw.
Team: Barnett, Shields, Hunsdale, McGrath, Knipe, McBride, Sharvin, Devine, Coffey, McMenamin, Murray. Subs: Salatka, McClelland, Kane, McAleese, Mallon, Bradley, Harwood.