Thursday 27th July 2017
Corey O'Reilly proved a second-half hero for Derry when he drilled home two late goals in last night's Ulster Under-21 Hurling Championship final to claim the title for his side.
O'Reilly's smash and grab act ensured that the Oak Leaf side finished on a high after Down had dominated the opening stages before giving way to their opponents' greater firepower.
The result is another shot in the arm for Derry hurling and manager Collie McGurk can take considerable satisfaction from his side's second-half performance in particular.
"It's a great feeling to have won this game but obviously we want to move on from here if we can. We have faced up to stiff challenges in Ulster but we will be the better for that," said McGurk.
Certainly, when Oisin McManus pocketed a goal for Down after five minutes they appeared to be ready to take control but by half-time they were already in arrears (1-9 to 1-5) with Brian Cassidy's goal just prior to the break providing the north-west side with extra momentum.
Down, with Pearse Og McCrickard and Ruairi Campbell picking off points, remained in the hunt but with Conor McAllister influential at midfield and Darragh Carton helping himself to three points, the Oak Leaf side stretched their lead heading into the last quarter.
They looked comfortable at 1-14 to 1-8 by which stage Cormac O'Doherty and Aodhan McKeever had also managed to pilfer points, although there was always the suggestion that Down might score in breakaways.
But when ace marksman O'Reilly stepped into a front stage role, Mourne hopes were dashed.
His first goal was a clinical finish while his second was a further piece of opportunism that hoisted his side well clear of their opponents at 3-16 to 1-9.
Derry were to tack on a further point as they cantered to the finishing line to take delivery of the trophy in a game which highlighted the depth of talent in both counties.
It is a measure of just how much Derry dominated the second period in that Down were restricted to just four scores from Mark Fisher, Coulter, Sands and McCrickard.
Having accounted for Antrim at the semi-final stage and now lowered Down's colours, Derry have certainly shown that they are capable of making further progress.
Derry scorers: C O'Reilly 2-1, D Carton 0-5, B Cassidy 1-2, C O'Doherty 0-4, C McAllister 0-3, O McKeever 0-2.
Down scorers: O McManus 1-0, P McCrickard 0-3, E Sands 0-2, C Coulter 0-2, R Campbell 0-1, M Fisher 0-1.