Captain Paves the Way

June 4, 2013

USFC ; Down 2-17 Derry 1-15

Down manager James McCartan refused to be daunted by the prospect of playing All-Ireland holders Donegal in the Ulster Championship semi-finals on June 23rd.

After seeing his side beat Derry by 2-17 to 1-15, McCartan said his side would be eager to make up for a 2-18 to 0-13 defeat in last year’s Ulster final.

“I think we opened them up as much as anybody over 55 minutes,” he said.

“The floodgates opened when we went to try to win the game and the big scoreline in the end did not worry me.”

At Celtic Park the meeting of two teams who traded places in the top two tiers of the Allianz National Football League did not disappoint as spectators were treated to a very open game of football which produced 35 scores from 15 different players with 32 of the scores coming from open play. The end result really boiled down to a tale of two halves as Derry led early in the second half by 5 points but were pulverised as goals from Donal O’Hare and Mark Poland helped Down outscore them 2-8 to 0-4 to run out comfortable winners in the end 2-17 to 0-15.

Team Captain Poland ensured Down were “up for it” as he landed the opening score after just 11 seconds and Conor Laverty set up the returning Ambrose Rogers for their second point with less than a minute played. The late change in the Derry defence which saw Brian McCallion replace the injured Sean Leo McGoldrick looked to have unsettled them but they were steadied by a fourth minute point from wing back Charlie Kielt which was quickly cancelled out as the game’s top scorer Donal O Hare (1-4) opened his account with a point.

Eoin Bradley, who was immense for the Oak Leafers in the first half, hit the post but then pointed following good work by Enda Lynn. Niall Madine raised a white rather than a green flag as he palmed the ball over the bar following a decisive Coulter run. A converted “45” from Benny Herron cut the Down lead to the minimum 0-4 to 0-3 after 10 minutes.

The next ten minutes saw midfielder Kevin McKernan kick a great point but points from Kielt and Eoin Bradley had the sides level with 15 minutes of the half remaining. Two points in four minutes from O’Hare and McKernan regained control for Down but not for long as the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the match to the short whistle outscoring Down 1-5 to 0-2 in the last 10 minutes of the half. Bradley and Kielt points levelled at 7 all before the elusive Eoin Bradley gave Derry the lead for the first time after Peter Turley hadn’t been alert to Brendan McVeigh’s short kick-out. Madine interrupted the Derry flow with an equaliser but by the half hour mark points from Eoin Bradley and Kielt regained the initiative for Derry which was to be made even better as Bradley set up centre back Mark Lynch who coolly slipped the ball under McVeigh for the game’s opening goal 1-10 to 0-8.  Down were reeling but a point from wing back Declan Rooney stemmed the tide before the game’s turning point arrived on the sound of the whistle. A  Paddy Bradley shot -which was heading for the top right-hand corner – was brilliantly tipped away by Brendan McVeigh at the expense of a ’45, which Benny Herron failed to convert. A 7 point interval deficit would have been a huge mountain for Down to climb.

Derry restored their five-point lead as Herron kicked the first point of the second half followed by 3 wides in as many minutes which were to be punished severely by the visitors.  Two quick points from Madine and his captain left just a goal in it.  In the 45th minute, playing a captain’s part, Poland turned provider when he set up Donal O’Hare for a goal to level the scoring at 1-11 apiece. A Kielt free, Derry’s first score in 11 minutes, edged them back in front. O’Hare exerted his influence as he scored two points in quick succession to give Down back the lead for the first time since the 26th minute.

An under pressure Ryan Scott gave possession away and Laverty found O’Hare, who sent the ball across the goalmouth for Poland to slide in and first-time it to the net, a score which effectively knocked the stuffing out of Derry as Down were now 2-14 to 1-13 in front. A 10 point swing in favour of Down followed when Kalum King added another point to the scoreboard. Points from Kielt and substitute Brian McCallion left a goal in it before the nippy O’Hare was unlucky to see his shot rebound from the butt of Eoin McNicholl’s upright with a pass to an unmarked colleague a better option. Would Down pay the price as Mark Lynch cut Down’s lead to two, 1-15 to 2-14 but that was the last hurrah from the Oak Leafers as Down finished like they started with a flourish.

Powerhouse Kevin McKernan doubled his points tally to four with two great points and a third in stoppage time from substitute Jerome Johnston eased Down into the Ulster semi-final

Donegal will be strong favourites for the 23 June rematch but, if Down could reproduce their second-half display at Celtic Park, it might not be a one-sided affair.

Down: B McVeigh, D McCartan, B McArdle, R Boyle, D Rooney (0-1), P Turley, K Quinn, K King (0-1), K McKernan (0-4), A Rogers (0-1), M Poland (1-2), N Madine (0-3), D O’Hare (1-4, 0-2f), B Coulter, C Laverty. Subs: D Savage for Rogers, R Mallon for Quinn, J Johnston (0-1) for Coulter.

Derry: E McNicholl, G O’Kane, C McKaigue, R Scott, C Kielt (0-1), M Lynch (1-1), B McCallion (0-1), P Bradley, R Bell, A McAlynn, J Kielt (0-5, 1f), E Lynn (0-1), B Heron (0-2, 1 ’45), E Bradley (0-4), C Delvin. Subs: D Mullan for Bell, E McGuckin for Devlin, D Brown for McCallion, B Gormley for P Bradley.

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).