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Allianz Hurling League Division 2B: Derry 1-19 Down 0-19

Monday 27th January 2020

Richie Mullan's early first half goal proved the difference between the sides as Derry hurlers started their Division 2B campaign with a hard fought three point victory over Down in a tight game at Celtic Park on Sunday.

The Oak Leafers enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and deservedly led 1-11 to 0-07 at the break but were forced to withstand a vastly improved Down display in the second period before claiming a crucial opening weekend victory. 
Derry's ace marksman Cormac O'Doherty hit an impressive first half tally of 0-08, seven of which came from some great free-taking.  Down had an impressive free-taker of their own in Oisin McManus who hit six frees in the first half to keep a struggling Down side in the game.  The wind was certainly a factor, as was the bright winter sun, peaking over the terrace at the Brandywell end of the ground into which the Down defence was facing.
The game's only goal arrived eight minutes into the game, when Richie Mullan's rounded the Down goalkeeper and fired first time off the ground across the face of goal and into the far corner to give Derry a 1-02 to 0-02 lead in a half that developed into a shoot-out between O'Doherty and McManus.  Down's only other scorer being Pearse Og McCrickard.
Half time score Derry 1-11 Down 0-07.
A swirling wind though left the strength of the seven point lead in question and within six minutes of the restart Down had brought themselves right back into the game with points from McManus (2) and Ryan McCusker.
Down's momentum was halted when Derry's Eoghan Cassidy fired over a point to leave the scores 1-12 to 0-10.  Down missed a goal change and moments later O'Doherty extended Derry's lead.  Down responded and three McManus points, two from frees and one from a '65' changed the complexion of the game once more with only a single score between as the game went into the last quarter.
It was Derry's turn to hit three in a row, two more for O'Doherty and one for Conor Kelly and with ten minutes remaining, Derry led by six.  Down rallied and points from Conor Woods, McManus and McCusker reduced the gap back to three 1-16 to 0-16.
In the final minues boths sides exchanged points O'Doherty edged Derry in front to four points, with John McManus reduced it back again to three.  Seconds later Thomas Brady replied for Derry at the opposite end before picking up a booking which would cost him moments later. O'Doherty hit Derry's final point before Brady picked up his second booking in injury time and Down mounted the expected late charge but could not get the scores required to level the match.
Final Score Derry 1-19 Down 0-19
Derry scorers: Richie Mullan (1-00), Cormac O'Doherty, (0-13, 11f), Odhran McKeever (0-02), Paul Cleary (0-01), Eoghan Cassidy (0-01), Conor Kelly (0-01), Thomas Brady (0-01),
Down scorers: Oisin McManus (0-13, 11f, 1 '65'), Pearse Og Crickard (0-01, 1sl), Ryan McCusker (0-02), Conor Woods (0-01, 1f), John McManus (0-01), Tom Murray (0-01),
Derry: Sean Kelly, Paddy Kelly, Sean Cassidy, Darragh Cartin, Brian Og McGilligan, Eamon McGill, Conor Kelly, Eoghan Cassidy, Paul Cleary, Thomas Brady, Cormac O'Doherty, Tiernan McHugh, Odhran McKeever, Alan Grant, Richie Mullan.

(Subs) Jerome McGuigan for A Grant, HT; Stefan McCloskey for P Cleary, 52mins; Bliadhan Glass for O McKeever, 60mins; Darragh McCloskey for R Mullan, 69mins;

Down: Stephen Keith, Darragh Mallon, Caolan Taggart, Pearse Og McCrickard, John McManus, Conor Woods, PJ Davidson, Matt Conlon, Phelim Savage, Liam Savage, Danny Toner, Oisin McManus, Gerard Hughes, Eoghan Sands, Tim Prenter.
(Subs) Tom Murray for P Savage, HT; Ryan McCusker for PJ Davidson, HT; Chris Egan for P McCrickard, 47mins; Ronan Costello for T Prenter, 55mins;
Referee: Colm McDonald (Antrim)