McComiskey makes difference for Down
Down 2-11 Armagh 1-10
McKenna Cup (SF)
Down made it through to the semi-finals with a comfortable win over Armagh in Newry.
Goals in either half from Kevin McKernan and the impressive Paul McComiskey saw the Mourne men progress to Sunday's semi-finals, where they will play Monaghan.
McComiskey flew out of the blocks for Down, scoring 0-3 from play inside the opening 12 minutes to delight the home supporters among the 2,529 at Pairc Esler.
Benny Coulter and Connaire Harrison helped themselves to points and the latter then teed up a goal for Kevin McKernan in the 20th minute.
McComiskey's point attempt dropped short and Harrison jumped to contest the high ball with the 'keeper, knocking it down into McKernan's path. The 2010 All Star centre-back palmed the ball to the net to put Down 1-6 to 0-2 ahead.
Armagh boss Paul Grimley had seen enough. Kieran Toner was out of position and looked uncomfortable playing as a sweeper before settling down at midfield.
While Armagh laboured and dwelt too long on the ball, Down moved the ball quickly and with purpose. Michael Stevenson and Stefan Forker chipped over points before the break but Armagh still trailed by 1-7 to 0-4 at half-time.
Grimley obviously had strong words for his under-performing team during the interval.
The men from the Orchard County came out and scored four unanswered points in the first five minutes after the restart.
A long-range effort from Ciaran McKeever and two sweet points off either foot from the eye-catching Forker closed the gap to two points.
McComiskey converted a free to stop Armagh's run of scores and any hope of a fightback was extinguished when he then struck on 46 minutes for Down's second goal after unselfish work by Coulter.
There weren't many bright points for Armagh on the night, but the accuracy of Forker was certainly one of them. He kicked 0-6, including four points in the second-half. After a few years spent in and out of the Armagh squad, he now looks ready to stake a serious claim for a starting berth in the full-forward line.
Armagh defender Gerard McCooey grabbed a consolation goal four minutes from time, but Down made it through comfortably to the semi-finals.
Scorers – Down: P McComiskey 1-5 (2f), K McKernan 1-0, C Harrison, C Laverty (2f) 0-2 each, L Doyle (f), B Coulter 0-1 each. Armagh: S Forker 0-6 (2f), G McCooey 1-1, M Stevenson 0-2, C McKeever 0-1 each
DOWN – M Cunningham; G McAnulty, B McArdle, R Boyle; D Rooney, A Carr, D McKibben; C Gough, K McKernan; D Turley, M Poland, B Coulter; L Doyle, C Harrison, P McComiskey. Subs: C Laverty for Doyle (23), R Mallon for Rooney (47), D O'Hare for Poland (52), A McConville for Gough (54), K Quinn for McArdle (56).
ARMAGH – C McKeown; S Finnegan, K Toner, G McCooey; N Rowland, J Donnelly, D McKenna; J Lavery, B Loughran; C Rafferty, S Harold, S Campbell; M Stevenson, J Kingham, S Forker. Subs: C McKeever for Finnegan (22), G McParland for Harold (25), D Carville for Kingham (46), E McVerry for Stevenson (60).
REF – Sean Hurson (Tyrone)