Down make hard work of Antrim in Ulster quarter-final

Conor Laverty’s men seal four-point victory in front of a bumper crowd in Newry

Ulster SFC quarter-final: Down 0-13 Antrim 0-9

Down made hard work of their Ulster Championship quarter-final at Páirc Esler on Saturday evening but they got past Antrim despite a patchy performance in front of a bumper crowd.

There were four points in it in the end and while this game didn’t exactly set the world alight, Conor Laverty’s men got the job done and booked their place in the semi-final against the winners of Sunday’s game between Armagh and Fermanagh.

Down made three changes to the match programme, including Clonduff clubman Barry O’Hagan in his first start since he suffered a cruciate ligament injury against Antrim in the league last season, and another injury returnee in Kilcoo’s Shealan Johnston.

For Andy McEntee’s men five players made their debut in Pairc Esler.


A scuffle before the ball was even thrown in by referee Barry Cassidy resulted in yellow cards for Down’s Odhrán Murdock and Antrim’s Joseph Finnegan and after Ryan McEvoy opened the scoring with a point for the Mournemen, Antrim were reduced to 14 men in the third minute when Conor Hand was dealt a black card.

Down only clocked up one more point during that spell from a Pat Havern free, while Finnegan forced a terrific goal save from Down netminder John O’Hare. Antrim goalkeeper Michael Byrne converted the resulting 45 in the ninth minute, aided by the strong wind.

While Down enjoyed the majority of the possession, the Saffrons had every man behind the ball and it was proving difficult to break them down.

Ryan McQuillan levelled the game at 0-2 apiece midway through the half, but Down pulled away with four of the next five scores to lead 0-6 to 0-3 at the half-time whistle.

Dermot McAleese hit a wide for Antrim on the restart, a third for his side, while Down had clocked up six in the first period.

Oisín Savage, who had replaced Havern in the first half, converted a mark to extend Down’s lead and Daniel Guinness made it 0-8 to 0-3 with a fisted point on 38 minutes.

But a brace of frees from Patrick McBride and Ryan McQuillan – the latter from a Liam Kerr foul just outside the penalty area – reduced Antrim’s deficit to three points 0-8 to 0-5.

The wide count began to creep up for Antrim with three more in the next 10 minutes, while another fisted point for Guinness and a beauty from Kerr were cancelled out with scores from Marc Jordan and Eoghan McCabe.

Another free sent over the bar by Kerr saw Down lead 0-11 to 0-7 with five minutes of normal time remaining, but a long break ensued as Antrim’s corner back Eunan Walsh took a knock and was carried off on a stretcher. Nine minutes additional time were announced on the restart.

Quick-fire points from Shane Annett and Ceilum Doherty extended Down’s lead to six but Antrim replied with a couple of frees to keep in touch.

Time was ticking on, however, and those frees proved to be the last scores of the game, with Down running out 0-13 to 0-9 winners.

DOWN: J O’Hare; P Fegan, R McEvoy (0-2), C Doherty; M Rooney (0-1), P Laverty, D Guinness (0-2); S Johnston, O Murdock (0-1); C McCrickard, L Kerr (0-1), R Johnston (0-1, m); B O’Hagan, P Havern (0-1, f), D Magill

Subs: O Savage (0-3, 0-2f, 0-1, m) for Havern (24 mins), E Brown for McCrickard (47), S Annett (0-1) for O’Hagan (52), R Magill for S Johnston (61), R Mason for Magill (70+5).

ANTRIM: M Byrne (0-1, 45); R Boyle, E Walsh, K Keenan; D Lynch, J Finnegan, D McAleese; C Hynds, M Jordan (0-1); C Hand (0-1), P McBride (0-1, f), E McCabe (0-1); R McQuillan (0-3, 0-2f), R McCann (0-1, f), D McEnhill

Subs: N Burns for McEnhill (h-t), P McAleer for Boyle (52 mins), E Hynds for Walsh (65), P Shivers for McQuillan (70+7).

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).