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Brilliant Benny downs Donegal

It will not live long in the memory for its quality, but an extra-time thriller at Ballybofey gave the Ulster football championship a much-needed lift.

And one of the game's great entertainers obliged with another virtuoso performance.

Benny Coulter has been doing it for more than a decade for Down, and he has lost none of his enthusiasm and utter brilliance.

Coulter once again displayed his love of the big occasion with an inspirational role in a comeback victory that sets up a semi-final clash with Tyrone.

The Mayobridge marauder hit 1-4 from play, including the winning goal deep into extra-time, and made a number of vital interventions back in his own defence late in the game.

"It was a class act, he was man of the match by a country mile. He's been putting it in for the past 10 years with Down, and you expect no less," said centre back James Colgan.

"If Benny's not doing that, there's people complaining about him, unless he's playing like that, the way he just lorded it all day. It's what we've come to expect."

Down gave themselves plenty to do after conceding two goals in the opening 20 minutes.


First debutant Dermot 'Brick' Molloy drilled home from Michael Murphy's assist in the 13th minute, then Conal Dunne slotted home a second after Molloy's effort had come back off a post six minutes later.

"With the two goals they got, maybe it looked as if Donegal were going to run away with it, but I think after that, we steadied the ship, and I think for the majority of the game we were in control and maybe didn't take some chances that would have got us the result in normal time," said Colgan.

"Maybe for the first goal there was a bit of mis-communication, maybe for the second one we were unfortunate, with the ball coming off the post. There's nothing you can do about that."

Donegal led by 2-3 to 0-7 at half-time, but with Danny Hughes buzzing around and new boy Kalum King prospering in midfield, Down battled back to go in front for the first time with a Marty Clarke '45', after Paul Durcan had saved superbly from Dan Gordon in the final minute of normal time.

It was 2-7 to 0-13 as the teams headed for overtime, but that man Coulter took the game by the scruff of the neck and settled it with an 86th-minute strike.

"The fellows kept their heads, didn't let it get to them, and played the way we know we can play. There's good belief in this team and I think we showed great hunger to come through that battle.

"Donegal are a great team and they put it up to us right to the end," Colgan added.

Man of the Match Coulter was just relieved to have got over the first round. "It's a while since we have won an Ulster Championship match. It's a long wait and it's well worth waiting for.

"It was a great team performance, we dug it out the full 90 minutes, and it was great to get the win in the end.

"Getting that goal was a brilliant feeling, and lucky enough we went on to win it.

"It gives the supporters something to cheer about in the next couple of weeks."

And he paid tribute to newcomer Kalum King, who played a major role at midfield in Down's first champion-ship win over Donegal in 14 years.

"It's his first year, and he gets on the ball, breaks ball, breaks tackles up, he gives us a new presence in the middle of the field. And with big Dan (Gordon) back and Marty (Clarke), it's coming together.

"It was a great team performance all round, bar the two goals. We got off to a slow start, but we dug in."