Down 1-16 Derry 0-19
Derry sub Tiernan McCloskey converted a free deep into stoppage time to earn a draw for Derry in a thrilling Ulster Senior Hurling Championship semi-final at the Athletic Grounds.
The sides will meet again next weekend to decide who goes through to meet Antrim in the decider at Celtic Park in the City of Culture.
The Oak Leafers looked like they were about to cause an upset when they hit eleven points in a row in a dominant spell during the second half to go three points ahead.
Down had led by seven at the interval, but were forced onto the back foot after the break, before a late flourish got them back in front.
Derry shaded the opening quarter, easing into a 0-5 to 0-3 lead over a Down side that was strangely lacking in spark and adventure.
Early scores from Oisin McCloskey and Aaron Kelly got them going, and when Paddy hentry converted a ’65, they led by 0-3 to 0-1.
Kelly stretched the advantage, and the Ardsmen’s sluggish efforts saw them strike a handful of wides and land three shots into the hand of goalkeeper Daral McDermott.
Paul Braniff and Scott Nicholson had kept Down in touch, however, and they suddenly sprang to life with a 1-3 blast in the space of four minutes.
Gareth ‘Magic’Johnston carved the opening for Daniel Toner to smash home a 19th minute goal that gave them the led for the first time, and points from Toner, Braniff and Johnson tagged on points for a 1-6 to 0-5 lead.
McCloskey and Paul Cleary responded for the Oak Leafers, but Down hit the final four points of the half, two of them delightful efforts from the skilful Paul Sheehan, to lead by 1-11 to 0-7 at the break.
Wind-assisted Derry pressed strongly in the early stages of the second half, but found full back Padraig Flynn in defiant form, and fell further behind to a Braniff free.
But Derry did rediscover their rythmn to reel of eleven points in a row.Kevin Hinphey claimed three and Kelly brought his tally to five as they stormed into the lead.
And when Down did attack, they were often denied by the excellent Paddy Kelly, but they did get their challenge back on track in the final five minutes.
Braniff ended a 26 minute scoreless spell, and added another to his tally to bring the sides level in thje final minuite of normal time.
Michael Turley’s spectacular effort looked to have sealed it for Down in stoppage time, but there was still time for Brendan Rodgers to win the free that Tieranan McCloskey converted.
Down: S Keith, M Conlon, P Flynn, P Hughes, M Hughes, C Woods, M Ennis, D Hughes (0-2), C O’Prey, S Nicholson (0-1), P Braniff (0-7, 5f), P Sheehan (0-2), D Toner (1-1), G Johnson (0-1), J Coyle.
Subs: F Conway for O’Prey, J McCusker (0-1) for Toner, K McGarry for M Hughes, M Turley (0-1) for Sheehan.
Derry: D McDermott, D McCloskey, P Kelly, J McCloskey, R McCloskey, L Hinphey, M O’Hagan, O McCloskey (0-2), K Hinphey (0-4), B Rodgers, A Grant (0-1), P Henry (0-2, 1 ’65), P Cleary (0-1), B Quigley, A Kelly (0-5, 1f).
Subs: C Convery (0-1) for Henry, T McCloskey (0-3, 3f) for Quigley
Referee: J Clarke (Cavan).