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Down grind out a win over Antrim

Sunday 14th April 2024

Recap as Down grind out hard-fought four-point win over Antrim

The Mournemen will face Fermanagh or Armagh in the Ulster SFC semi-final after edging out the Saffrons in Newry

By Paddy Tierney  Photo Louis McNally 

Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Down 0-13 Antrim 0-9


Down are through to the last four of the Ulster Championship after a thoroughly unconvincing four-point win over Antrim in a tempestuous game in Páirc Esler on Saturday.


When the teams met in the League, Down came away from Corrigan Park with a nine-point victory.

Antrim’s hopes of closing the gap suffered a hammer blow midweek when Ruairi McCann of Aghagallon, who scored the vital goal against Wicklow in round seven, was ruled out after having an operation to remove his appendix and Antrim lacked a focal point in attack.

As the teams broke from the pre-match parade, Down midfielder Odhran Murdock barraged into Antrim goalkeeper Mick Byrne and a series of mini scuffles broke out before throw-in.

Barry Cassidy booked Murdock and Joe Finnegan before the game got under way.

Down made the brighter start with early points from Ryan McEvoy and a free from Pat Havern.

However, playing into a strong breeze, they overhit several passes and couldn’t assert themselves on the game and could have fallen behind when Finnegan went through on goal after 10 minutes with John O’Hare making a smart save at the expense of a 45, which Byrne converted.

A cracking point from play from the lively Ryan McQuillan drew Antrim level before Down replied with points from Miceal Rooney and Murdock.

Down were good value for a 0-6 to 0-3 lead at half-time with Ryan Johnston splitting the posts with a fine point from a mark while Antrim defender Kavan Keenan was slightly fortunate to avoid a second booking moments after his first when he caught Johnston with a high challenge.

As the teams went in at half-time, there was an altercation between a member of the Antrim backroom team and Down’s Conor Francis, who wasn’t part of their match-day squad.

Cassidy issued a red card to Brendan Murphy, Antrim’s strength and conditioning coach, although the Saffrons were adamant the Derry whistler had singled out the wrong man.

Points from Daniel Guinness and Oisin Savage moved Down into a five-point lead as the game slipped away from Antrim in the early stages of the second half.

In such the same manner as the first, some wayward shooting and poor decision-making from Down left the door ajar for Antrim and McEntee’s side reduced the deficit to three on two occasions with Eoghan McCabe and Marc Jordan landing good scores.

Despite nine minutes of injury-time owing to a lengthy stoppage for an injury to Antrim full-back Eunan Walsh, the Saffrons couldn’t engineer a goal chance as Down progressed to the Ulster semi-final where they’ll face Fermanagh or Armagh in a fortnight’s time.

DOWN: J O’Hare; P Fegan, R McEvoy 0-1, C Doherty 0-1; M Rooney 0-1, P Laverty, D Guinness 0-2; C McCrickard, O Murdock 0-1; S Johnston, L Kerr 0-1, R Johnston 0-1 (0-1m); B O’Hagan, P Havern 0-1 (0-1f), D Magill.

Subs: O Savage 0-3 (0-2fs, 0-1m) for Havern (23), E Brown for McCrickard (47), S Annett (0-1) for O’Hagan (52), R Magill for S Johnston (61), R Mason for Magill (74).

ANTRIM: M Byrne 0-1 (0-1 45); R Boyle, E Walsh, K Keenan; D Lynch, J Finnegan, D McAleese; C Hynds, M Jordan 0-1; C Hand 0-1, P McBride 0-1 (0-1f), E McCabe 0-1; R McQuillan 0-3 (0-2fs), R McCann 0-1 (0-1f), D McEnhill.

Subs: N Burns for McEnhill (HT) P McAleer for Boyle (52), E Hynds for Walsh (67), P Shivers for McQuillan (76).

REFEREE: B Cassidy (Derry).