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Braniff leads Down stroll into semi-finals

Down cruised into the semi-finals at the expense of a disappointing Derry at Casement Park yesterday.

The Mournemen got off to a flyer and had the ball in the Derry net with their first meaningful assault on the Oak Leaf goal. Gareth Johnson had the easiest of tasks to lob the ball past Daryll McDermott after the Derry defence spilled a long ball.

Two minutes later, Paul Braniff rippled the Derry net, this time Johnson was provider, as Down strolled into a 2-0 to 0-1 lead after seven minutes.

Derry dragged themselves into contention with an Alan Grant goal on 34 minutes, but a Braniff free completed the first-half scoring with Down 2-7 to 1-6 to the good.

Braniff added two more points just after the restart. Derry replied through Ruairi Convery with what was the first of just three second-half scores.

However, Down grew in confidence, with James Coyle, Johnson, Benny Ennis and Scott Nicholson all supplementing Braniff's frees.

Johnson put the game beyond any doubt on 60 minutes with Down's third goal for a 3-15 to 1-9 lead.

Down will now meet Armagh in two weeks' time.

Man of the Match -- Paul Braniff

Scorers -- Down: P Braniff 1-10 (10 f), G Johnson 2-2, B Ennis, S Nicholson 0-2 each, J Coyle, E Clarke, D Toner 0-1 each. Derry: R Convery 0-5 (4f), A Grant 1-0, K Hinphey 0-2, O McCloskey, O Doherty 0-1 each

Down -- Graham Clarke 8; M Hughes 8, C Coulter 7, S Ennis 7; K McGarry 6, C Woods 8, M Ennis 7; A Savage 7, E Clarke 8; S Nicholson 8, P Braniff 9, S Clarke 6; B Ennis 7, G Johnson 8, J Coyle 7. Subs: C Mageean 6 for S Clarke, D Toner 7 for J Coyle, Gabriel Clarke 6 for K McGarry

Derry -- D McDermott 6; L Hawkins 6, M Craig 6, C Quinn 5; C McKenna 6, L Hinphey 7, R McCloskey 6; K Hinphey 7, O McCloskey 6; A Grant 7, C McKeever 7, P Henry 7; P Kelly 6, R Convery 7, O Doherty 6.

Subs: M Fitzpatrick 6 for O Doherty, D McCloskey 5 for C Quinn, S Farren 6 for P Kelly

Ref -- O Elliott (Antrim)

Irish Independent