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Laverty strikes early to send Mourne men closer to semi's

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Down's Niall Madine in action against Mattie Donnelly of UUJ during last night's Dr McKenna Cup clash

Down's Niall Madine in action against Mattie Donnelly of UUJ during last night's Dr McKenna Cup clash

SPORTSFILE

Down's Niall Madine in action against Mattie Donnelly of UUJ during last night's Dr McKenna Cup clash

Down defied atrocious weather conditions in Pairc Esler to move a step closer to a place in the McKenna Cup semi-finals.

Late points from Conor Laverty and Cathal Crilly helped Down pull clear of the students on an awful night for football. With four of last night's McKenna Cup ties being called off due to adverse weather conditions, it was a borderline decision to play this one.

To their credit, the teams managed to put on a decent spectacle and Down got off to a dream start with a goal from Laverty. The forward outjumped his marker and the goalkeeper to punch into the net after 55 seconds.

Big things are expected from Down's former AFL star Caolan Mooney and he scored a superb long-range point for the students against his native county. It turned out to be UUJ's only score from play in the first half, allied to two long-range frees from Cillian O'Connor.

Down goalkeeper Stephen Kane showed great reflexes to save Caolan O'Boyle's thunderous shot, with the home side taking a 1-5 to 0-3 lead into the interval.

Donal O'Hare and Peter Fitzpatrick stretched the lead but Niall McKeever was credited with a bizarre goal for UUJ after 41 minutes. He appeared to foul the 'keeper, who spilled the ball into the net. St Mary's Sean Fox pulled off saves from Arthur McConville and Niall Madine but Down pulled clear in the last ten minutes.

Scorers - Down: C Laverty 1-1, D O'Hare 0-4 (1f), P Devlin 0-2 (2f), C Maginn, P Fitzpatrick, A McConville, N Madine, D McKay, C Crilly 0-1 each. UUJ: N McKeever 1-1, C O'Connor 0-3 (3f), P McBrearty 0-2, C Mooney 0-1.

Down - S Kane; D O'Hagan, L Howard, D Turley; M Magee, B McArdle, D McKay; N Madine, P Fitzpatrick; P Devlin, C McGovern, C Maginn; C Laverty, A McConville, D O'Hare. Subs: C Garvey for McKay (h-t), K McKernan for D Turley (54), P Turley for Madine (BC, 57), C Crilly for McGovern (62), K Anderson for McConville (66).

UUJ - S Fox; K Brady, R Johnston, D McNally; B Sankey, M Donnelly, C Harkin; C Mooney, N McKeever; F Burns, C O'Boyle, R Donnelly; L Gervin, R O'Neill, C O'Connor. Subs: P McBrearty for Gervin (h-t), K Hughes for Harkin (h-t), M Johnston for Sankey (47), P Casey for McNally (53), J McGovern for Burns (68), R McAlinden for R Donnelly (68).

Ref - S Laverty (Antrim)

Irish Independent