Derry 0-13 Down 1-5
James McCartan refused to be drawn on his future after Derry sent 13-man Down crashing out of the championship.
The Mourne manager has worked wonders to keep the county competitive with so many frontline players out through injury and emigration.
In Celtic Park on Saturday night, it all seemed to catch up with them as Derry took full revenge for the Ulster quarter-final defeat to Down five weeks earlier.
“These crazy questions that you’re asked in the aftermath of a game,” said the Down manager, who’s been in charge for four years.
“You might give an answer you’ll regret later on… there’s no point me trying to guess what that might be.
“We did not perform the way we have in our last two championship matches. The intensity Derry brought, showed they were out for revenge and fair play, they got it.”
Down seemed to accept their fate from a long way out and ended the game with 13 men. Benny McArdle and Kevin McKernan were both dismissed on straight red cards in the last quarter. They were acts borne out of frustration by a side which managed just 1-1 from play in the game. Donal O’Hare’s 64th-minute free was their only score of the second half. Perhaps the effort they put in trying to dethrone Donegal in the Ulster semi-final two weeks ago took its toll on the Mourne men.
Eoin Bradley revealed Derry did not need to look very far for motivation for this rematch against their Ulster rivals.
“Mark Poland said after the last day they overran us and were far fitter than us,” he said. “We outworked them today and got our own back. That was a bit of motivation.”
The game was expected to be more defensive than the free-flowing contest served up in the Ulster championship quarter-final, and so it proved. After a dull opening, Derry made a better fist of it and should have been ahead at the break.
They got the bodies back, with Mark Lynch and Conor McAtamney dropping deep, but they did commit men forward on the counter-attack and were dangerous on the break.
Ballinderry’s 19-year-old prospect Ryan Bell, who struggled on his championship debut against Down when asked to deputise in midfield, revelled in a more attacking role and kicked three first-half points from play. James Kielt kicked two frees, one a tremendous effort from 55m, as Derry stretched their lead.
“I was more confident today than the last day because we had PJ McCloskey and Sean Leo (McGoldrick) back,” said Bradley. “PJ was a big miss for us last time.”
McCloskey, who missed the last game with Down with a hip injury, dominated midfield, winning plenty of first-phase possession.
Down were relying on frees from O’Hare and didn’t score from play until Ambrose Rogers drove a solitary point from play with the outside of the boot in the 27th minute.
Derry led 0-7 to 0-3 lead with half-time nearing. Then Down pounced hitting 1-1 in first-half stoppage time, Donal O’Hare hitting the net as he did against Derry last time.
Daniel McCartan made a rare foray forward and fed Kalum King. King offloaded to O’Hare whose low curling finish flew in.
There was still time for O’Hare to tag on a free, drawing Down level 1-4 to 0-7 at the interval.
Brendan McVeigh pulled off a fine save from Eoin Bradley straight after the restart but Derry kicked on. Bell kept the scoreboard ticking over as he took his tally to 0-6 and Derry sub Emmet McGuckin landed two points to help Derry book a place in the third round qualifiers.
Scorers for Down: D O’Hare 1-4 (4f), A Rogers 0-1.
Scorers for Derry: R Bell 0-6 (1f, 1 ‘45’), E McGuckin, E Bradley 0-2 each, K Jielt 0-2 (2f), L Kennedy 0-1.
Subs for Derry: E McGuckin (0-2) for Kennedy (42), B Herron for McAtamney (53), C McFaul for Bell (70).
Subs for Down: B Coulter for Madine (42), R Mallon for Johnston (51), D Hughes for Quinn (55), D Savage for Turley (67), D Turley for McCartan (70)
Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath)
DERRY: E McNicholl; A McAlynn, C McKaigue, D McBride; C Kielt, M Lynch, SL McGoldrick; P Bradley, PJ McCloskey; C McAtamney, J Kielt, E Lynn; R Bell, E Bradley, L Kennedy DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, K Quinn; O Costello; P Turley, R Boyle; K King, K McKernan; A Rogers, M Poland, N Madine; C Laverty, J Johnston, D O’Hare
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved