Down 2-18 Antrim 2-17
Down left it late in front of a packed Páirc Esler to pull off this smash-and-grab victory over winless Antrim in Allianz FL Division 3.
A scrappy 69th-minute goal from substitute Conor Poland drew the sides level, and Pat Havern and the impressive Andrew Gilmore applied the finishing touches for Conor Laverty’s men to see off a dogged Saffrons outfit.
Andy McEntee’s side deserved something from the game and will rue the frantic finale in which all their good work unravelled. A high, searching ball did the trick, with Poland was on hand to scramble home.
Antrim were in control from the start; the loss of Dermot McAleese early on did not deter them either, and Ruairí McCann found the net twice either side of a Gilmore goal for Down to give them a deserved 2-8 to 1-9 lead at half-time.
The hosts did level shortly after the break thanks to the lively Liam Kerr and match-winner Havern, but Antrim persisted.
Saffrons goalkeeper Michael Byrne stroked over a ’45, Ryan Murray and Dominic McEnhill landed three in a row to push the lead firmly in their advantage.
And thanks to the brilliance of replacement McEnhill, Antrim looked on course to hold out, but unbeaten Down had the final say.
Scorers – Down: A Gilmore 1-4 (2f); C Poland 1-0; B O’Hagan (1f), L Kerr, O Murdock 0-3 each; P Havern 0-2; N Kane (‘45), S Millar, E Brown 0-1 each. Antrim: Ruairí McCann (Aghagallon) 2-1; D McEnhill (1m), C Stewart 0-3 each; M Byrne (1 ’45, 1f), R Murray (1f), P Finnegan 0-2 each; Ruairí McCann (Creggan) (1f), A Loughran, J Finnegan, J McAuley 0-1 each.
Down: N Kane 6; P Laverty 7, R McEvoy 9, P McCarthy 6; C Francis 6, R Magill 6, M Rooney 5; N Donnelly 6, O Murdock 8; C Doherty 6, D McAleenan 6, L Kerr 8; A Gilmore 8, P Havern 7, B O’Hagan 7. Subs: E Brown 7 for O’Hagan (41), M Walsh 6 for Doherty (45), S Miller 7 for Rooney (48), C Poland 7 for Donnelly (48).
Antrim: M Byrne 8; P Healy 7, D Lynch 8, J McAuley 7; D McAleese 5, J Finnegan 6, M Jordan 7; K Small 6, C Stewart 8; P Finnegan 8, A Loughran 7, Ruairí McCann (Creggan) 6; R Murray 6, Ruairí McCann (Aghagallon) 8, P Shivers 7. Subs: S O’Neill 8 for McAleese (6), D McEnhill 9 for Shivers (32), C McLarnon 7 for Small (h-t), O Eastwood 6 for Murray (57), P McCormick 6 for Healy (62).
Referee: B Tiernan (Dublin).