Sport Hurling

Friday 23 February 2018

Coyle strike opens the door for Down

Down 3-20, Armagh 1-11

A STRONG second-half performance saw Down comfortably progress to a semi-final date with Derry.

Fresh from their Christy Ring victory last Saturday, Down showed their pedigree by limiting their neighbours to just three second-half points.

The Orchard County got off to the better start at Páirc Esler thanks to points from David Carvill and Declan Coulter but Down soon took the lead. Daniel Toner levelled before Gareth 'Magic' Johnston put them in front.

Just a minute later, Down stretched their lead when a long ball into the square was pulled on by James Coyle for a Down goal. Points from Coyle and Donal Hughes then gave Down a five-point cushion over the visitors.

Armagh responded though Coulter, who scored three times in quick succession, and a John Corvan goal brought the sides level with nine minutes of the first half to play.

However, Down's Scott Nicholson fielded a dangerous ball on the edge of the square before flashing the sliotar to the net on the stroke of half-time to leave the Mournemen leading 2-8 to 1-7 at the break.

Coulter put three between the sides immediately after the restart but Down then took a firm grip on the game. Scores from Paul Braniff, Paul Sheehan and Coyle stretched Down's lead and Armagh became increasingly desperate and their shooting increasingly erratic.

Conor Woods, Sheehan and Braniff added further points from Down while Coulter's two points were all Armagh could muster in a way of a response.

Substitute Jonny McCusker flicked in Down's final goal with five minutes to play to seal victory for Down a week after they were crowned Christy Ring champions for the first time.

SCORERS – Down: J Coyle 1-3, J McCusker 1-1, D Hughes, P Branniff (3fs), P Sheehan 0-4 each, S Nicholson 1-0, D Toner 0-2, C Woods ('65'), G Johnston 0-1 each. Armagh: D Coulter 0-8 (5fs), J Corvan 1-0, D Carvill 0-2, C Carvill 0-1.

DOWN – S Keith; M Conlon, P Flynn, M Hughes; B Nicholson, C Woods, M Ennis; D Hughes, K McGarry; S Nicholson, P Braniff, P Sheehan; D Toner, G Johnston, J Coyle. Subs: P Hughes for Nicholson (50), J McCusker for Braniff (50),

ARMAGH – J Burke; C Devlin, C Clifford, M McCullough; P Hughes, N Curry, K McKernan; J Corvan, M Maguire; M Lennon, D Coulter, D Carvill; C Carvill, C Reid, M Lennon. Subs: R Fullerton for M Lennon (46), L Woods for C Carvill (55), S Gaffney for C Reid (62), C Donnelly for J Corvan (63).

Ref – O Elliott (Antrim).

Irish Independent

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