Derry 0-23 Down 2-12
Derry saw off Ulster rivals Down thanks to a high-octane second-half display at Owenbeg today.
The Oak Leafers will now face Kerry in next weekend’s Christy Ring Cup final.
The accuracy of attacking trio Paul Cleary, Ruairi Convery and Paddy Henry, who nailed a combined total of 18 points, proved the difference in the end as they recovered from the concession of goals to Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson and James Coyle.
Derry made a lively start, nailing points through Ruairi Convery and Paul Cleary, before Steven Dineen got Down’s challenge going with a neat score.
It was Dineen who sent in the long delivery that Johnson first-timed to the net in the ninth minute.
Derry, with Conor McSorley excelling at the heart of their defence, produced a gutsy response, and scores from Alan Grant and Convery had them right back in it.
Fintan Conway landed a long range effort for the visitors, but Cleary brought the sides level in the 19th minute.
The wind-assisted Ardsmen claimed long range scores through Declan McManus and Dineen, but a superb third from the in-form Cleary, followed by a Paddy Henry, free, had the sides level by the third time.
Cleary could do no wrong, and edged his side back in front, but three long range frees from Johnson, one a monster effort from 85 metres, gave Down a 1-8 to 0-10 interval lead.
Derry reeled off four points at the start of the second half, through Convery, Cleary, Patrick McCloskey and Henry, but they conceded a second goal when James Coyle collected from Johnson to beat Daryl McDermott with a firmly struck shot.
When Down substitute Scott Nicholson hit the target in 48th minute, the sides were level for the tenth time.
Sean McGuigan and Brendan Cleary stepped up their game around the middle, and Derry pushed ahead again, Alan Grant and Antron Rafferty adding to their tally, and McCloskey and Jonathan O’Dwyer were both denied goals by superb Stephen Keith saves.
Going into the final 10 minutes, Derry led by 0-21 to 2-10, after Convery had driven over a 95 metre free, and while Down pulled back scores through Johnston and Coyle, there was to be no denying Tom McClean’s men as they booked their place in the final for the first time.
Derry scorers: R Convery 0-7 (4f), P Cleary 0-6, P Henry 0-5 (4f), A Grant 0-3, P McCloskey, A Rafferty 0-1 each.
Down scorers: G Johnson 1-5 (0-3f), J Coyle 1-1, S Dineen 0-2, F Conwa$y, M Ennis, D McManus, S Nicholson 0-1 each.
Derry: D McDermott, M Warnock, C Quinn, S McCullagh, A Rafferty, C McSorley, K Hinphey, S McGuigan, B Quigley, P McCloskey, P Cleary, P Henry, A Kelly, R Convery, A Grant.
Subs: J O’Dwyer for Kelly (53), L Hinphey for Quigley (58), N Ferris for McCloskey (64), D Flanagan for Kelly (64), R McCloskey for Warnock (71)
Down: S Keith, M Conlan, P Flynn, M Hughes, D McManus, C Woods, M McCullough, D Hughes, F Conway, M Ennis, D Toner, S Dineen, C Egan, G Johnson, J Coyle.
Subs: J McManus for Egan (18), S Nicholson for Hughes (h-t), B Nicholson for Woods (53), P Sheehan for Toner (59), E Sands for Coyle (64)
Referee: O Elliot (Antrim).