Hurling & Camogie

Ben Christie and Michael Dorrian to the fore as Down land U20 Richie McElligott Cup

“I think in the second half we went back to basics, got our structure and I think we deserved to win”.

Down's U20 Richie McElligott Cup winning side of 2024.
Down's U20 Richie McElligott Cup winning side of 2024.
All-Ireland U-20 “B” Hurling Championship (Richie McElligott Cup) Final

Until 2018, just one Ulster team (Donegal 2004) had competed in a Richie McElligott Cup final, and that didn’t end well as they were well-beaten by Laois. 14 years later Derry became just the second side from the Northern province to get that far, with either Derry or Down competing in every final since.

On Saturday afternoon in Croke Park, Down added a second title to their roll of honour by outlasting a game but limited Roscommon team, following on from their win over the same opposition two years ago.

“We need to be getting to finals to progress,” said Down manager Conor O’Prey afterwards.

“The more that you can get to finals and get comfortable with it, the easier it will be to progress once you get to seniors. We train on the same night as the seniors, we use the same food and we do the warm-up with the seniors which is a massive incentive.

Down's Conor O'Prey is wary of a Derry reaction in Saturday's Christy Ring tie
Down's Conor O'Prey.

“There are forty or fifty lads on a Tuesday and Thursday night doing the warm-up together and then the twenties are sectioned off with our coaches. They’re getting a taste of what that is and that’s the first year that Down have done it that way. We’ve reaped the rewards from it”.

It took Down a while to exert their dominance, as nine first half wides left Roscommon in a game where the Mourne County were vastly superior from open play. Down firing their first three shots wide while Seán Canning (a nephew of Galway’s Joe Canning) split the upright’s with Roscommon’s first possession in the Down half.

After trailing by 0-5 to 0-3, Finn Turpin pointed on the run and Noah Rogers picked off a fine effort as Down moved 0-8 to 0-6 ahead, but there was only one in it at half-time.

A run of Paddy Fallon frees, punctuated by scores from Dorrian and Turpin, left it finely poised at 0-10 each with six minutes gone in the second half, but Down were about to step up a gear and leave Roscommon behind. Turpin, Shea McCarthy, Shea Pucci and Odhran Birt hurled a lot of ball and Down could have killed the game with two goal chances, only for the crossbar to save Roscommon on both occasions, first denying Dorrian and then Birt.

O’Prey’s side were undaunted, and the point of the day from the Hogan Stand side from Rogers pushed them three clear, and they never led by less than a goal again.

Down's Stephen Keith making the first penalty save of the game  during the GAA Allianz Hurling Division Two A Round Three  game between Down and Kildare at Ballycran on 02-25-2024.
Down's U20 side have been training with their senior compatriots.

“I said at half-time that we haven’t really started here,” said O’Prey.

“Once we got a couple of points you just feel the confidence building with everything else. I think in the second half we went back to basics, got our structure and I think we deserved to win”.

P Smyth (0-1f); L Morgan, B Taggart, P McGarry; D Magee, S Pucci, D Mallon; S McCarthy (0-
2), O Birt (0-1); F Tupin (0-3), T Connolly, C O’ Neill; B Christie (0-6, 0-5f), Michael Dorrian (0-4), N
Rogers (0-3).
Subs: R McCamphill for O’Neill (20), T Kelly for Connolly (41), C Leneghan for McCarthy (54), A Rogan
for Rogers (60+1), C Blaney for Birt (60+2).

Wides: 14

Yellow Cards: Pucci (35 mins), Dorrian (54 mins).

J Ryan; J Hoey, J Dillon, O Flynn; R Coyle (0-1), T Fleming (0-1), M Hussey; K Ryan, L Óg
Coyle; P Fallon (0-5f), S Canning (0-3), R Conlon (0-1); R Lyons, C Morris, B Mannion.
Subs: T Morris for Conlon (39), J Connolly for Lyons (44), G Meares for Mannion (53), DJ Hession for
Flynn (54), A Hoare for R Coyle (60+1).

Wides: 10

Yellow Cards: K Ryan (46 mins), Hussey (51 mins)

Referee: Pádraig Dunne (Laois).