Queen’s 1-17 Down 1-11
Holders Down crashed out of the Gaelic Life McKenna Cup following a convincing six-point win for Queen’s University in tonight’s semi-final at Páirc Esler, Newry.
Derry’s James Kielt top-scored with 1-5 as the students booked a spot in Saturday’s final against Donegal.
Down began brightly as scores from Cathal Magee and Joe Ireland set Ross Carr’s men off on a positive footing, with some quick moves from defence to attack.
But the hosts were suddenly on the back-foot as a trio of points for the students from Armagh duo Charlie Vernon and Paul Courtney, and Derry’s James Kielt edged Queen’s into a 0-3 to 0-2 lead after 12 minutes.
Down’s goal arrived in the 15th minute from full-forward Magee, but the hosts could have bagged a hat-trick before the interval.
Chances for half-forwards Ronan Sexton and John Fegan went amiss, with Sexton’s end of opening quarter effort slicing the side-netting.
Fegan had the ball in the Queen’s net with less than three minutes to go before the interval, but his effort was deemed illegal due to a palmed attempt.
Queen’s also had ample chances of securing a goal before the interval, with Tyrone’s Shaun ‘Snowy’ O’Neill and Courtney both having good efforts in the closing ten minutes of the first half, but they were halted by a resilient Down rear-guard.
The sides were deadlocked at 1-5 to 0-8 at the interval, but Queen’s opened up a five-point gap inside four minutes after the restart.
A brace of points for the students, coupled with a 39th minute Kielt goal gave Aidan O’Rourke’s charges early momentum.
Down cut the gap to four points, but despite the efforts of a determined Down side, the students stood tall at the back with Joe O’Kane and Niall McGovern rock solid in defence, and Vernon lording possession in the midfield sector.
Queen's now face Donegal in a novel final under floodlights on Saturday night at Healy Park, Omagh.
The Belfast outfit are aiming to become the first college side to take the McKenna Cup title, while Donegal are chasing a first title in the competition since 1985
QUEEN’S: F Murphy; H Gallagher, N McGowan, L Howard; R Dillon, D Ó hÁgain, J O’Kane; C Vernon (0-4), B McArdle; J Loughrey, C Maginn, SL McGoldrick; J Kielt (1-5, 3f), J Crozier, C Bayne (0-2). Subs: P Courtney (0-1) for McGovern (7); S O’Neill (0-3) for Gallagher (7); S Burke for Loughrey (63); P McVey (0-2) for Bayne (64); C Kielt for McGoldrick (69)
DOWN: B McVeigh; K Duffin, K McKernan, M Cole; C Garvey, A Carr, H Davey; J Ireland (0-2), J Lynch; J Fegan, R Sexton, S Kearney (0-1); D Hughes (0-2), C Magee (1-1), B Coulter (0-2). Subs: P Fitzpatrick (0-1) for Lynch (43); M Magee (0-2) for C Magee (47); R Murtagh for Duffin (64)
REFEREE: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan)