DERRY 0-13 DOWN 1-5: Teenager Ryan Bell kicked six points for Derry as they dominated Down in Saturday night's qualifier at Celtic Park, avenging their Ulster Championship defeat to the same opponents last month.
Having conceded 2-17 in that provincial encounter the Oak Leaf defence shackled the Down attack in this game – particularly in the second half when they limited the Mourne side to just a single pointed free. Such were the Down frustrations that they finished with 13 men – Brendan McArdle and Kevin McKernan were sent off in the second half.
Derry manager Brian McIver was delighted with the way his players had reversed their five-point defeat by the same opponents on June 8th.
“The lads were great out there today. We were naturally disappointed after the last Down game and felt we had a point to prove to ourselves and our supporters.
“We want to win every game in which we play. And that’s what we’ve done in the qualifiers to date. We wanted to be in the next round and we are. However, it’s heads down and back to work. Next game,” he said.
McIver had some sympathy for Down who had to travel to the banks of the Foyle twice in four weeks and identified home advantage as a crucial factor in his side’s success.
“Home advantage is key in qualifiers. It’s nice to get a home draw. I felt the crowd really rallied there today. They got behind the team at vital stages in both halves, creating a great atmosphere. They were tremendous and gave us that extra lift,” he said.
Down opened sharply, two early frees from Donal O’Hare edged them in front and they could have been further ahead but for some wasteful finishing. However, Derry settled after a shakey 10 minutes and more or less took control of the game thereafter.
With PJ McCloskey the dominant figure at centre field the hosts fed on a glut of possession and Bell and Eoin Bradley pointed from play to see the scores level after 12 minutes.
James Kielt edged Derry in front after a foul on Eoin Bradley and Bell again pointed from play before Kielt landed a seconded monster free from 55m (60 yards) to see Derry lead by 0-5 to 0-2 on 26 minutes.
Ambrose Rogers pulled one back for Down, but Lee Kennedy responded for Derry before Bell's third point made it 0-7 to 0-2.
That was the score as the game entered injury time but Derry were rocked when McKernan fed O’Hare to slot low past Eoin McNicholl. And before the half-time whistle Down were level at 1-4 to 0-7 as Aidan McAlynn’s foul was punished by O’Hare.
The stage seemed set for Down to push on after that major swing in momentum but it was Derry who would dominate the entirety of the second half.
Ryan Bell opened the scoring in the second period from a 45 after Brendan McVeigh’s one-on-one save from Bradley. Further scores from Eoin Bradley and substitute Emmet McGuckin meant Derry led 0-10 to 1-4 midway through the half .
Down’s cause was further damaged when Brendan McArdle was sent off on 58 minutes for striking Chrissy McKaigue off the ball and Derry extended their lead through Bell’s free after a foul on Eoin Bradley.
Down registered their only score of the second half through Donal O'Hare's free on 62 minutes. But even with the introduction of Benny Coulter from the Down bench the visitors never looked like getting the goal they needed to save the game. Indeed with Patsy Bradley a growing influence, Derry's control tightened and Bell's sixth point and McGuckin's second saw the Oak Leafers home and hosed at 0-13 to 1-5.
There was still time for Down to suffer a final indignity as Kevin McKernan was sent off in injury time. A campaign that had promised so much was brought to an early close.
DERRY: E McNicholl; A McAlynn, C McKaigue, D McBride; C Kielt, M Lynch, SL McGoldrick; Patsy Bradley, P J McCloskey; C McAtamney, J Kielt (0-2, frees), E Lynn; R Bell (0-6, 0-1 free,0-1 45), E Bradley (0-2), L Kennedy (0-1). Subs: E McGuckin (0-2) for Kennedy (45 mins), B Heron for McAtamney (54 mins), C McFaul for Bell (69 mins). Blood sub: Heron for McCloskey (49-52 mins).
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, Keith Quinn; O Costello, P Turley, Ryan Boyle; K King, K McKernan; A Rogers (0-1), M Poland, N Madine; C Laverty, J Johnston, D O'Hare (1-4, 0-4 frees). Subs: B Coulter for Madine (45 mins), R Mallon for Johnston (52 mins) Hughes for Quinn (55 mins), D Savage for Peter Turley (68 mins).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).