McCartan's Down rally to end Derry fightback
Dr McKenna Cup (SF)
Down eventually booked a McKenna Cup semi-final berth against Donegal on Wednesday with this win, but they had to withstand a strong Derry fightback at Celtic Park before claiming their knock-out spot.
For much of this game it had looked like the Mournemen would coast to victory. Especially after half-time substitute Marty Clarke goaled at the second attempt from a penalty and then nailed 43rd minute '45'. This left the visitor 1-11 to 0-5 to the good and in pole position.
However, a positional reshuffle by Derry saw Joe Diver move to midfield and his towering presence in that sector helped turn the game. In fact, with five minutes to play, a Seamus Bradley goal had helped the hosts to level matters at 1-13 apiece and Damien Cassidy's side looked the more likely winners.
But Down regained their composure and two late scores from Paul McComiskey saw them over the finishing line.
Derry opened the scoring through Seamus Bradley, but with Ronan Murtagh showing well in a attack, Down led by 0-6 to 0-2 at the 20 -minute mark with scores from John Clarke, Murtagh (0-2) Mark Poland, Calum King and Aidan Carr. The second Derry score came from the boot of Liam Hinphey
A Raymond Wilkinson Derry point provided a temporary respite, but McComiskey, Murtagh and Poland stretched the Down lead to 0-9 to 0-3 before Charlie Kielt's effort saw Derry have the final word before the interval.
The losers' Mark Lynch opened the second-half scoring, but Conor McGinn quickly replied for Down.
When Clarke slotted home the rebound after Martin Dunne had saved his penalty and then converted that '45,' James McCartan's men seemed home and hosed.
However, five unanswered points from Seamus Bradley, Fergal Doherty, Aidy McLaughlin, Andrew McCartney and Gerard O'Kane saw Derry back in contention with 15 minutes to go.
John Clarke's point steadied Down, but Derry struck again as Seamus Bradley flicked to the Down net to close the gap to 1-12 to 1-11.
A John Clarke free doubled down's lead, but Derry were on a charge and Fergal Doherty's long-range sideline hopped over the bar and Adie McLaughlin punished a poor kick-out with the leveller.
But just when they looked set to crumble, Down found some composure and McComiskey pointed from play and then a free to secure that semi-final spot.
Scorers -- Down: M Clarke 1-2 (0-1f, 0-1 '45'); R Murtagh, J Clarke (0- 2f) 0-3 each, M Poland, P McComiskey (0-1f) 0-2 each, C King, C McGinn, A Carr (f) 0-1 each. Derry: S Bradley 1-2, F Doherty, CKielt, A McLaughlin 0-2 each, L Hinphey, A McCartney, R Wilkinson, G O'Kane, M Lynch (f) 0-1 each.
Down -- D Alder; D McCartan, Conor Garvey, D Rafferty; M Poland, K McKernan, A Carr; C King , A Rodgers; R Murtagh , M Poland, P Fitzpatrick; J Clarke, M Magee, C McGinn. Subs: P McComiskey for Magee (28), M Clarke for R Murtagh (half-time), C Laverty for McGinn (50), S Parr for A Carr (70).
Derry -- M Dunne; M McGoldrick, G O'Kane, J O'Kane; C Kielt, M Lynch, B McGuigan; F Doherty, L Hinphey; A McCartney, R Wilkinson, E Lynn; S Bradley, J Diver, K O'Neill. Subs: A McLaughlin for O'Neill (half-time), B Mullan for J O'Kane (48), Paul Bradley for McGuigan (50).
Ref -- S McLaughlin (Donegal).