Mourne men's late surge ends Derry hopes
Down 1-18 Derry 1-15
Down brought a premature end to Derry's Christy Ring campaign with a hard-fought victory at Owenbeg.
When Derry's Ruairi Convery nailed a 70th-minute monster of a free it levelled this very tight encounter for the seventh time with extra-time looming.
However, the Mourne men hit Derry with a three-point blitz in injury-time to win it.
Defeats last week at the hands of Roscommon and London respectively had paired Derry and Down in a winner-takes-all battle.
The Oak Leafers began brighter, with Oisin McCloskey's fine goal helping them to a 1-7 to 0-9 lead at the break.
However, Derry's 14 wides proved costly, whereas Down kept the scoreboard ticking over.
All square at 1-15 apiece in injury-time, Michael Johnston's side reeled off the last three points of the game to finally kill off Derry, who must now face Wicklow in the relegation play-offs.
Scorers - Down: B Byers 1-1, D Toner (2fs), O McManus 0-4 eachA O'Prey 0-3, F Conway, J McGrath, C Woods (f), S Nicholson, P Sheehan (f), C O'Prey 0-1 each. Derry: S Farren 0-8 (4fs), O McCloskey 1-0, R Convery 0-3 (2fs), Se McGuigan 0-2 , T McCloskey, P Cleary 0-1.
Down - S Keith; A O'Prey, F Conway, M McCullough; J McGrath, C Woods, C Taggart; S Ennis, Scott Nicholson; P Sheehan, D Toner, S Dineen; O McManus, D Hughes, B Byers. Subs: C Mageean for Dineen (6), J O'Kane for O'Prey (35), C O'Prey for Sheehan (55), J O'Kane for Taggart (63).
Derry - D McDermott; M McGrath, C Quinn, S McCullagh; B Quigley, C McSorley, B Og McGilligan; O McCloskey, T McCloskey; A Grant, M McGuigan, G O'Kane; S Farren, R Convery, P Cleary. Subs: S McGuigan for McGuigan (32), S Cassidy for O'Kane (54), D Foley for Grant (63), SF Quinn for McSorley (65).
Ref - C Cunning (Antrim)