The Mournemen, who have been playing every weekend since the start of May due to their Christy Ring Cup success, had a comfortable win over Derry in yesterday’s drawn semi-final at the Athletic Grounds.
A fatigued Down side almost got caught by Derry last week but survived a big scare, and made no mistake at the second time of asking as they led from start to finish.
Their relieved manager Gerard Monan then called on the Ulster Council to push back the date of the final as his players want to be in Phoenix Park – not Celtic Park – on Sunday.
“We have seven or eight boys going on holidays and to the Mumford and Sons concert (in Dublin) next week so we’re hoping not to play the final until the end of July, start of August,” he said.
“We’ve played week in week out since the start of May and the boys need a break.”
Paul Braniff scored 0-12 yesterday, eight from frees, while midfielder Donal Hughes scored five points from play.
Derry were reduced to 14 men after 27 minutes when Aaron Kelly received a straight red card for an off the ball clash with Down defender Paddy Hughes.
Down were ahead 0-12 to 1-5 at half-time. Derry half-time substitutes Mark Craig and Paddy Henry hit 0-10 between them in the second-half.
Scorers for Down: P Braniff 0-12 (8f), D Hughes 0-5, J Coyle 0-3, K McGarry 0-2, P Sheehan, M Turley, J McCusker 0-1 each
Scorers for Derry: P Henry 0-7 (4f), A Kelly 1-0, M Craig 0-3, K Hinphey 0-2, T McCloskey 0-2 (1f), B Rodgers 0-1, A Grant 0-1 (f)
DOWN: S Keith; M Conlon, P Flynn, P Hughes; F Conway, C Woods, M Ennis; D Hughes, E Clarke; K McGarry, P Braniff, P Sheehan; D Toner, G Johnson, J Coyle
Subs: M Turley for Toner (49), J McCusker for McGarry (52), B Nicholson for Conlon (57), L McMullan for Coyle (63), C Hughes for Ennis (65)
DERRY: D McDermott; D McCloskey, P Kelly, J McCloskey; R McCloskey, L Hinphey, M O’Hagan; O McCloskey, K Hinphey; B Rodgers, A Grant, T McCloskey; P Cleary, B Quigley, A Kelly
Subs: M Craig for Quigley (HT), P Henry for Cleary (HT), S McBride for Rodgers (60)
Referee: Tony Carroll (Offaly).