Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Uladh

Ulster SFC: Down overcome Antrim

April 15th, 2024

Ulster SFC Quarter-Final

Down 0-13 Antrim 0-9


Down did enough to see off Antrim in Newry on Saturday afternoon to progress to the final four of the Ulster Senior Football Championship.

Antrim had a strong wind at their backs and only really used it on rare occasions while Down struggled with their shooting six first half wides. The Saffrons gave Championship debuts to Cathal Hynds, Conor Hand and Kavan Keenan, while Down welcomed the return of Barry O’Hagan who started his first game since being carried off against the same opponent in the Allianz League last year.

Ryan Johnston’s 35-metre converted mark against the breeze was a score of beauty and that gave Conor Laverty’s men a 0-5 to 0-2 lead.

Down started brightly with Ryan McEvoy wandering his way from inside the 45 to stroke over. Pat Havern’s free doubled the lead after Antrim’s Conor Hand picked up a black card.

Still, Tony McEntee’s men coped with the reduction in numbers and during that period they levelled the score, with goalkeeper Michael Byrne converting a 45’ and then young Ryan McQuillan swung over from distance.

Down stretched their lead as Kilcoo’s Miceal Rooney and then a wonderful swerving conversion from Ryan Johnston put Conor Laverty’s men back in control.

Substitute Oisin Savage doubled the scores as half time approached, but there was still time for Antrim to show they had more to offer with a stunning strike from Conor Hand.

At the interval Down led 0-6 to 0-3. Within five minutes of the restart Savage had converted a mark and Daniel Guinness fisted over following great close-encounter play from Murdock.

But it was all Antrim for the next five minutes as Paddy McBridge stoked over effortlessly and then McQuillan closed the gap with his short-distance free.

The Murdock and McGuinness combo produced another score, but Marc Jordan’s reply kept it a one-score game until Liam Kerr raced through and clipped over at one end while Eoghan McCabe did likewise at the other end. Antrim had opportunities to close the gap, but kicked five second half wides and dropped as many short.

Savage’s (free) third point made it a two-point game with 65 minutes played. Late on Down pulled away with Mayobridge’s Shane Annett and Ceilum Doherty on target before Ryan McQuillan and Ruairi McCann replied.

Antrim pressed high and chased a goal, but Down weathered the storm without firing any warning shots ahead of the Ulster semi-final against either rivals Armagh or Fermanagh on Saturday April 27.

Scorers for Down: Oisín Savage 0-3 (2fs,1m), Daniel Guinness 0-2, Ryan McEvoy, Miceal Rooney, Odhran Murdock, Ceilum Doherty, Liam Kerr, Shane Annett, Ryan Johnston (m), Pat Havern (f), 0-1 each.

Scorers for Antrim: Ryan McQuillan 0-3 (1f), Conor Hand, Marc Jordan, Eoghan McCabe, Michael Byrne (45), Patrick McBride (f), and Ruairí McCann (f) 0-1 each.

Down: John O’Hare, Peter Fegan, Ryan McEvoy, Ceilum Doherty, Micael Rooney, Pierce Laverty, Daniel Guinness, Shealan Johnson, Odhran Murdock, Conor McCrickard, Liam Kerr, Ryan Johnston, Barry O’Hagan, Pat Havern, Danny Magill.

Subs: Oisin Savage for Havern (25’), Eamonn Brown for McCrickard (47’), Shane Annett for O’Hagan (53’), Ryan Magill for S Johnston (61’), Rory Mason for D Magill (70’).

Antrim: Michael Byrne, Ronan Boyle, Eunan Walsh, Kavan Keenan, Declan Lynch, Joseph Finnegan, Dermot McAleese, Cathal Hynds, Marc Jordan, Conor Hand, Patrick McBride, Eoghan McCabe, Ryan McQuillan, Ruairí McCann, Dominic McEnhill.

Subs: Niall Burns for McEnhill (35’), Patrick McAleer for Boyle (53’), Eoin Hynds for Eunan Walsh (66’), Pat Shivers for McQuillan (71’).

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).

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