McKernan goal helps Down overcome first hurdle with some ease
Struggling Antrim prove no match for the Mournemen in Newry
Down’s Kevin McKernan celebrates after scoring his side’s goal in the victory over Antrim at Páirc Esler in Newry. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/Inpho
DOWN 1-18 ANTRIM 0-14
Down manager Eamonn Burns had the wryest of smiles as he contemplated a question from a reporter suggesting that they could reach their second successive Ulster final after this facile stroll past a hapless Antrim in Newry on Saturday night.
“I know you too long for all that old shit!,” he quipped, adding the usual platitudes about looking forward to seeing what transpired in the quarter-final between Derry and Donegal.
Last year Down defended their own turf in disposing of a highly-fancied Armagh before turning the championship on its head with a win over Monaghan in the semi-final.
A poor league campaign followed, but once they found their feet midway through the opening half here, with four points in as many minutes, they completely set the tone of the exchanges.
They rattled Antrim goalkeeper Chris Kerr to his boots, pushing up hard on his kickout. When he boomed it down the centre, Down midfielder Peter Turley was his man-mountain best, and when the goalkeeper went short, his defenders were strangely out of sync.
It was one such effort, bobbling along to the way-too-casual Niall Delargy, that prompted Shay Millar to nip in and intercept, before transferring to the incoming Kevin McKernan and the 2010 All-Star made no mistake with a shot to the net.
That made it 1-9 to 0-5 just before half time and the rest of the game was a procession, played out in front of a paltry crowd of 5,589, which was ample evidence that the Ulster Council made a howler of a decision by not staging it earlier in the day and avoiding the clash with the Champions League final.
Burns admitted the influence of Down selector, and former Antrim joint-manager Gearóid Adams played some role in the win.
“It was a difficult day for Gearóid. Gearóid is an Antrim man, he played for Antrim, he managed Antrim. So we didn’t lean on him too heavily. If he wanted to volunteer, we took the information, but I am sure he is glad it is out of the way now.”
Antrim manager Lenny Harbinson was sanguine in defeat.
“It’s a tough learning curve for all of us in management as well as in the panel, but our key priority which I’ve been saying all year is we’ve got to get out of Division Four.”
DOWN: M Reid; C Flanagan, B McArdle (0-1), A Doherty (0-2, frees); B O’Hagan, N McParland, C Mooney (0-1); P Turley, N Donnelly; K McKernan (1-1), C Maginn (0-1), S Millar (0-2); D O’Hare (0-7, five frees), C Harrison (0-1), R Millar. Subs: S Dornan (0-2) for K McKernan (h/t, bc), J Flynn for R Millar (51 mins), R McAleenan for C Flanagan, D McKibbin for C Mooney (both 56), C McGrady for C Harrison (60), N Madine for D O’Hare (67). Yellow cards: N Donnelly (29m), C Flanagan (39m). Black card: K McKernan (35m)
ANTRIM: C Kerr; P Healy, P Gallagher, N Delargy; K O’Boyle, R Johnston, J Laverty; P McAleer, N McKeever; M Sweeney, C Murray (0-2), R McCann; R Murray (0-4, one free), M Fitzpatrick (0-1), P McBride (0-4, two frees). Subs: C Duffin (0-1) for (h/t) P Gallagher; S Beatty for N McKeever, K Healy (0-2) for R McCann (both 50), D Lynch for J Laverty (56), O Eastwood for P McAleer (63), M McCarry for P Healy (70). Yellow cards: P McAleer (34m), P McBride (37m), S Beatty 65m) Red card: R Johnston (68m)
Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary)
First half - 1-9
Second half - 0-9
Wides - 13
From Play - 1-11
Frees conceded - 18
Yellow cards - 2
Red cards - 0
Black cards - 1
First half - 0-5
Second half - 0-9
Wides - 8
From Play - 0-11
Frees conceded - 13
Yellow cards - 3
Red cards - 1
Black cards - 0