Ulster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final
Down 2-13 Donegal 1-11
Down will face rivals Armagh in the Ulster championship semi-final after they dumped Donegal out of the competition with a blistering second half performance.
It is a significant and memorable win in front of 11,527 fans in Pairc Esler, for Conor Laverty’s men who had narrowly missed out on promotion from Division Three, but compounds more misery on Donegal, who have a few weeks to pick themselves up for All-Ireland series.
Pat Havern’s penalty on 45 minutes put Down well ahead and there was no looking back as points from Daniel Guinness, Andrew Gilmore and Havern followed while Donegal struggled for scores, with 11 wides.
Down controlled the tempo, moved possession at pace and defended in numbers, making life difficult for a disappointing Donegal.
However, Donegal got off to a dream start when, with only two minutes gone, a mix-up between Down’s Anthony Doherty and Niall McParland allowed Jason McGee through on goal and his finish into the net kept the large crowd quiet.
But Down, who gave Ulster championship debuts to Danny Magill, Miceal Rooney, Donach McAleenan and Eugene Branagan, gradually eased into the game.
Pat Havern and Ryan Johnston tagged on points either side of Daire O’ Baoill’s fine score. Donegal were shooting from distance and kicked five first half wides, while Down’s attack was a little more measured.
Caolan Ward had extended Donegal’s lead but on 22 minutes the sides were level, Branagan and Ward got tangled up and Kerr took advantage with a clever chip up without breaking his stride and he tore towards goal before lashing into the net.
Pat Havern’s free edged Down ahead for the first time and Ryan Johnston put the Mourne men ahead again but on both occasions Donegal levelled with O’Baoill and keeper Shaun Patton (45’) on target to make it 1-4 each.
Down’s searing pace in attack caught Donegal out in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Kilcoo duo Ryan Johnston and Eugene Branagan put the Mourne men ahead and Pat Havern converted a penalty after Brendan McCole took down Ryan Johnston.
The Mourne men led 2-7 to 1-5 and they weren’t going to let this chance slip, with Danny Magill, Liam Kerr, Ryan Johnston and Daniel Guinness playing a staring role.
Donegal couldn’t live with Down’s pace on the break, although Ciaran Thompson, O’Baoil and substitute Oisin Gallen struck back with scores.
The game was up long before it was over and while Conor O’Donnell was denied a goal by keeper Niall Kane in the closing stages, Down always seemed to have an answer.
If they beat Armagh next week, in Clones, Down will be included in the All-Ireland series as well as place in the Ulster final. It’s a bitter blow for Donegal, who have been having a tough year on and off the pitch.
Scorers for Down: Pat Havern 1-3 (1-0 pen, 3fs), Liam Kerr 1-0, Ryan Johnston 0-3 (1f, 1m), Andrew Gilmore and Daniel Guinness 0-2 each, Danny Magill, Eugene Branigan, and Conor Poland 0-1 each.
Scorers for Donegal: Jason McGee 1-1, Daire O’Baoill 0-3, Conor O’Donnell and Ciaran Thompson (2fs) 0-2 each, Caolan Ward, Oisin Gallen, and Shaun Patton (45) 0-1 each.
Down: Niall Kane, Pierce Laverty, Anthony Morgan, Shane Annett, Danny Magill, Niall McParland, Miceal Rooney, Daniel Guinness, Ryan McEvoy, Ceilum Doherty, Ryan Johnston, Liam Kerr, Donach McAleenan, Pat Havern, Eugene Branigan.
Subs: Conor Francis for Annett (49’), Andrew Gilmore for Branagan (53’), Shealan Johnston for R Johnston (60’), Conor Poland for McParland (65’), Geordie Collins for McAleenan (70’).
Donegal: Shaun Patton, Mark Curren, Brendan McCole, Caolan Ward (0-01), Caolan McColgan, Stephen McMenamin, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Caolan McGonigle, Jason McGee, Daire O Baoill, Michael Langan, Ciaran Thompson, Hugh McFadden, Jamie Brennan, Conor O’Donnell.
Subs: Luke McGlynn for Langan (16’), Oisin Gallen for McFadden (45’), Kieran Tobbin for Ward (49’), Rory O’Donnell for McMenimen (65’), Kane Barrett for McGlynn (70’).
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).