Burns calls for more Down composure with bigger tasks in mind
Down 1-18 Antrim 0-14
Down manager Éamonn Burns hopes his side will find their ruthless streak ahead of their semi-final against Donegal next month following their victory over Antrim at Páirc Esler.
The Mourne men recorded a seven-point quarter-final win in Newry, with veteran Kevin McKernan finding the net moments before picking up a black card.
Ulster finalists last season, Down suffered relegation from Division 2 of the Allianz League after a hit-and-miss campaign and their manager believes they will need to be sharper when going up against Donegal on June 10.
"We had a lot of very good performances in the league, our problem was our decision-making in front of goal," said Burns.
"It was better tonight, at times. We put the pressure on and we turned them over. I just thought in the last 10 or 12 minutes we could be a bit more composed in front of goal… we wouldn't be overly happy with our accuracy.
"We won and that was the main thing. Antrim was always a banana skin… It took us a wee bit of time to settle in but once we did we got our feet on the ground and got our systems running."
Down led by seven at half-time - 1-9 to 0-5 - after finding their feet with a patient running approach following a bright start for Antrim.
McKernan's goal arrived just before half-time, with Shay Millar taking advantage of a fluffed Chris Kerr kick-out that Antrim defender Niall Delargy failed to intercept.
However, McKernan was sent to the dressing-room early as he picked up a black card moments later for pulling Delargy to the ground.
That was one of a number of Antrim mishaps as they struggled to find any success with long deliveries - Down's Peter Turley was a dominant presence around the middle - before reverting to shorter kick-out options.
The battling Saffrons struggled further in the second half after the 58th-minute dismissal of centre-back Ricky Johnston.
"We just have to work harder on our kick-out strategy because it's critical in the modern game," said Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson.
"If we hadn't conceded a cheap goal, we would've went in only a few points behind, so the game was very much in the melting pot."
Donal O'Hare's accuracy from frees and play allowed the hosts to maintain their lead in the second half while coping with Antrim's sporadic scoring efforts, led by Ryan Murray and Patrick McBride.
That also allowed Burns to run off his bench as the lively Caolan Mooney and O'Hare were taken off as a precaution - the former having suffered from a bug midweek.
Burns reported that Ryan Johnston will be fit for the Ulster semi-final having failed to feature here, although the prognosis for wing-back Darragh O'Hanlon's back injury is uncertain.
One man certainly looking forward to putting this match behind him is Down coach Gearóid Adams, the former Antrim defender and co-manager.
"It was a difficult day for Gearóid," said Burns. "We didn't lean on him too heavily. If he wanted to volunteer we took the information, but I'm sure he's glad it's out of the way now."
For Harbinson, Antrim's rebuilding mission will become more certain following this morning's first-round qualifier draw.
"We're looking forward to the draw," said the Saffrons manager.
"The only way you get experience is by playing against Division 2 teams and the likes and sometimes it can be a tough learning curve."
Scorers - Down: D O'Hare 0-7 (5f); K McKernan 1-1; S Millar, A Doherty (2f), S Dornan 0-2 each; C Mooney, B McArdle, C Harrison, C Maginn 0-1 each. Antrim: R Murray 0-5 (f); P McBride 0-4 (2f); K Healy 0-2; M Fitzpatrick (f), C Duffin, C Murray 0-1 each.
Down - M Reid 7; C Flanagan 7, B McArdle 7, A Doherty 8; D O'Hagan 7, N McParland 7, C Mooney 8; P Turley 9, N Donnelly 7; K McKernan 7, C Maginn 7, S Millar 8; D O'Hare 8, C Harrison 7, R Millar 6. Subs: S Dornan 7 for K McKernan (BC, 36), J Flynn 6 for R Millar (52), C McGrady 6 for C Harrison (61), N Madine 6 for O'Hare (67), R McAleenan 6 for C Flanagan (56), D McKibbin 6 for C Mooney (56).
Antrim - C Kerr 6; P Healy 6, P Gallagher 5, N Delargy 6; K O'Boyle 6, R Johnston 5, J Laverty 6; P McAleer 6, N McKeever 6; M Sweeney 6, C Murray 7, R McCann 6; R Murray 8, M Fitzpatrick 7, P McBride 8. Subs: C Duffin 7 for P Gallagher (h-t), S Beatty 6 for N McKeever (50), K Healy 7 for R McCann (50), D Lynch 6 for J Laverty (56), O Eastwood 6 for P McAleer (64), M McCarry 6 P Healy (70).
REF - D O'Mahoney (Tipperary).