Down U20 manager Conor Deegan: happy with win but not performance
Ulster U20 Football Championship quarter-final: Down 4-15 Antrim 3-13
DOWN U20 manager Conor Deegan was content with the result but not by the performance in Saturday’s pulsating win over Antrim.
Played in Newry’s Pairc Esler, Down and Antrim served up seven goals and 28 points in an entertaining hour where the two teams tore up the script and went for the jugular.
Three goals in a frantic minute and 30 seconds encapsulated the excitement during the opening half in a game the Mourne men deserved to win.
“Obviously it is great to come out on the right side of the result but we wouldn’t be happy with how we played,” said Deegan.
“We reverted back to how we don’t want to play but it has been a while since Down won games of any note so it is a good win for us and I am very pleased for the boys because they have worked very hard.”
Antrim boss Hugh McGettigan was pleased with how his men performed and feels many of the squad will be soon ready for the step up to senior ranks.
“I can’t fault the guys they were excellent,” said McGettigan.
“We have a lot of lads there who we think will move on to the senior ranks and I would be very happy with the way they have been prepared.”
The teams were locked on 0-5 to 0-5 with 17 minutes played with Daniel McGuinness, Gareth McKibben, Conor McCrickard, Josh Connery and Owen McCabe the Down scorers and Dermot McErlain, Kevin Small ( 2 frees), James Smith and Eamon Fyffe doing the needful for Antrim before the game turned.
Kevin Small bagged the first goal to give Antrim a deserved lead but Down responded with stealth as 30 seconds later Conor McCrickard rattled the Antrim net and less than 30 seconds after that his team-mate McCabe hammered home from close-range.
However, Fyffe fired Antrim back into contention with his converted penalty on 24 minutes but only 50 seconds into the second half Pierce Laverty struck Down’s third goal as the Mourne men took a six-point lead.
However, Antrim stayed in the game with the busy Deaghlan Smith and Small hitting points before Liam Quinn coolly found the net and Tiarnan McAteer levelled the score on 42 minutes.
McCrickard pointed immediately to edge Down back in front and he was on hand again when Down keeper Darren Ross’ free dropped short and the dual star bagged his second goal from the edge of the square.
It somewhat knocked the stuffing from Antrim as Down charged ahead with a rally of points from McCabe, impressive substitute Liam Kerr and Daniel Guinness to wrap up victory.
And Down manager Deegan is pleased his side have reached the Ulster U20 Championship semi-final.
“We probably could have won that game three times, but we kept sitting back and allowing Antrim time to build,” said Deegan.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and we dug in well and got a few good performances. There is a lot of work to improve but we are still in the hat and we will improve.”
Down: D Ross, B Gallen, F McIlroy, A Lynch, C Cox, O McConvey, S Annett, L Middletown, J Connery (0-02), O McCabe (1-4), P Laverty (1-01), D Guinness (0-03), A Devlin (0-01), C McCrickard (2-02), G McKibbon (0-01).
Subs used: J McCartan for J Connery (ht’), L Kerr (0-2) for Devlin (41’), R Martin for Gallen (44’), R Fegan for McCabe (56’), C Gorman for McKibben (59’)
Antrim: C Walsh, M Hamill, S Kelly, A Mulholland, E McCabe (0-01), D McCormick, P McCormack, J Smith (0-02), D Smith (0-01), E Nagle, T McAteer (0-01), D McErlain (0-01), K Small (1-3, 0-3 frees), E Fyffe (1-02, 1-0 pen), L Quinn (1-2, 0-2 frees).
Subs used: M McNamee for Hamill (24’), P Finnegan for Kelly (46’), C Bradley for Smith (52’), M Hagan for McAteer (52’), R Kelly for Small (56’), D Smyth for McErlain.
Referee: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).