Derry 1-14 Down 2-10
Michael McMullan at Celtic Park

WHEN Derry and the Dr McKenna Cup combine, there always seems to be drama.  Niall Toner’s goal with six minutes remaining grabbed an unlikely victory to maintain Damian McErlain's winning start as senior manager.

When Shay Millar gave up possession, Derry took off on the attack and it was Toner who squeezed his shot through a mass of bodies to the net.

It was the first time since Peter Hagan’s early free that the home side were ahead – putting the Oakleafers in the box seat for semi-final qualification following Armagh’s draw with UU.

Derry will travel to the Athletic Grounds for the refixed game but look set to be without Conor McCluskey, who was carried off.

In the opening quarter, Derry were open and Eamon Burns' men were able to pop passes into their attack.  Shay Millar, Sean Dornan and Kevin McKernan were the influential trio.

McKernan and Dornan both scored goals as Down went into a commanding lead, but points from Peter Hagan, Enda Lynn and Ciaran McFaul restored Derry into the game.

Half-time: Down 2-7 Derry 0-8.

The second-half followed a different path entirely.  Down were held to just a paltry three points as Derry dominated for long periods, as they had a more defined shape.

In the thick fog, passages of free flowing play were few and mistakes were aplenty but it was Derry who began to dictate the flow of the game.

Enda Lynn scored two early points in the second-half and with Michael Bateson sitting back as a stopper at centre-back, it gave Down more to think about.

Despite Derry being the dominant team, Down were able to hold on to their lead.  James Kielt and Patrick Kearney added points when introduced from the bench.

The game still needed a spark.  Something different.  And it was Niall Toner who provided it.  The Lavey man went on an incisive burst inside the Down rear-guard he somehow found the net to snatch victory for Derry.

Derry’s next game is Sunday’s trip to Armagh (2.00).  The semi-final is fixed for next Wednesday (January 17) – with the final down for Sunday, January 21.


DERRY: Oran Hartin, Conor McCluskey, Liam McGoldrick, Ruairi Mooney, Paddy Coney, Michael McEvoy, Jordan Curran, Conor McAtamney, Jack Doherty, Peter Hagan (0-2f), Ciaran McFaul (0-1), Conor Doherty, Enda Lynn (0-6, 2f), Mark Lynch (0-3, 2f), Niall Toner (1-0).
SUBS: Michael Bateson for J Curran (HT), Patrick Kearney (0-1) for C McCluskey (INJ 41), James Kielt (0-1f) for M Lynch (56), Feargal Higgins for P Hagan (59).

DOWN: Shane Harrison, Colm Flanagan, Gerard McGovern, Brendan McArdle, Anthony Doherty (0-1f), Niall McParland, Caolan Mooney (0-1), Aaron Morgan (0-1), Conor Poland, Shay Millar (0-3), Kevin McKernan (1-2), Conor Francis, Ronan Millar (0-1f), Sean Dornan (1-0), James Guinness.
SUBS: Barry O’Hagan for C Francis (40), Darragh O’Hanlon (0-1f) for J Guinness (51), Connaire Harrison for C Mooney (57), Shay Murnin for S Dornan (58) Shane Murray for R Millar (65), Johnny Flynn for N McParland (BC 46).

REF: Anthony Marron (Monaghan).

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