Bryansford test for reigning Down champions Kilcoo
Morgan Fuels Down Senior Football Championship quarter-finals
Bryansford v Kilcoo (tonight, Pairc Esler, 8.15pm)
THE Magpies go into tonight’s quarter-final against Bryansford as favourites but they have yet to take flight in their campaign thus far.
Having battled to overcome Clonduff in the opening round, they again lacked conviction in their second round win over a Ballyholland side who played most of the game with 14 men.
Most importantly, though, they got over the line and it seems they will be content to stagger their way through to another county title to set up another assault on Ulster.
Last year’s Ulster final defeat to Slaughtniel still hurts the rural Down club, but they won’t get any sympathy from their neighbours tonight.
Bryansford should have taken the direct route but dithering in front of goal cost them the opening game of the championship against Warrenpoint.
They have since found their form and cantered past Saval and An Riocht. Neither of those teams are considered title contenders but the ’Ford will feel they can catch Kilcoo on the hop.
Big Packie Downey gives the ’Ford a focal point and a direct route they didn’t have last season.
His former club Drumgath feature against Caolan Mooney’s Rostrevor in the intermediate curtain-raiser but Downey has proved more than capable of making an impact in the senior championship.
Conor Maginn and Danny Savage are arguably the two best playmakers in the county but it is captain Maginn who plays closer to goal.
And with the brilliant Maginn feeding passes to Downey, who can supply the speedy Savage, Bryansford have the ability to trouble the Magpies.
However, this is Kilcoo and with Derry’s Paul McIver in his third year in charge, they won’t be expecting to get caught out.
Aaron Morgan is an immense player and someone who would enhance the current county squad. Strong in the tackle, comfortable in the air and composed in possession, the Kilcoo midfielder keeps getting better.
Ceilum Doherty, in only his second season playing senior football, is a lively forward who covers a lot of ground but is also steady in front of the posts.
Captain Darragh O’Hanlon may start at full-back or Felim McGreevy may be positioned to mark dangerman Downey.
The Johnston brothers – Jerome and Ryan – offer Kilcoo flexibility. Ryan has tended to hold possession this season, despite displaying pace that frightens defenders, whereas Jerome will get chances in front of goal should he start.
But should McIver want his team to show their attacking cutting edge then they have the players to do so.
Conor Laverty continues to almost defy gravity with his jinking runs that makes a mockery of blanket defences but this season the
lung-busting runs have become rarer or unnecessary.
Kilcoo are chasing their sixth county title in succession and with all their championship experience as well as quality throughout their squad, anything other than a Magpies win will come as a massive surprise.
Ballyholland Harps 1-9 RGU Downpatrick 1-9
BALLYHOLLAND and RGU Downpatrick will return to St Patrick’s Park in Newcastle on Wednesday night following Saturday evening’s exciting finish.
Jack Grant bagged a brilliantly engineered goal in the last minute to give Ballyholland the lead but Downpatrick captain Conor McGrady converted a late, late free to set up a replay.
It was a tense finish to what was otherwise a disappointing contest. The strong Newcastle wind made conditions difficult but RGU used it to their advantage with Johnnie Bell on target with three 50-metre
Downpatrick led 1-3 to 0-4 at the break with that man Bell grabbing the important goal on 21 minutes.
Patrick Quinn (2), Tiernan Rushe and a long-range from Down’s Joe Murphy helped the Harps get on their feet but another county man Anthony Doherty and wing-back Jarlath Brannigan (2) replied for Downpatrick.
Quinn’s third and fourth points soon after the restart levelled the score before Bell was allowed to launch two super points.
With light fading fast, the battles became more heated and challenges a little loose but Tony Havern powered through to point for Harps, although Bell’s third point kept a goal between the teams. But Quinn’s free narrowed the gap to leave a tense final 10 minutes.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men when Ballyholland’s Joe Murphy was red-carded and Downpatrick’s Michael Magee received a second yellow.
But with normal time all but up, the evergreen Ronan Murtagh escaped the radar of his marker Doherty and along the game-line he played a clever one-two with Quinn before squaring to substitute Grant who punched into the net.
Ballyholland had taken the lead for the first time since the 20th minute but there was still time for O’Grady to convert a tricky free and set up a replay.
Harps, who will play in Newcastle for the fourth time in this Championship, will be without the suspended Murphy on Wednesday and RGU will hope to capitalise.
Downpatrick scorers: J Bell 1-3, J Brannigan 0-2, A Doherty 0-1 (1f), T McElroy 0-1, C O’Grady 0-2f
Ballyholland scorers: P Quinn 0-6 (2f), J Grant 1-0, T Rushe 0-1, J Murphy 0-1, T Havern 0-1
Castlewellan 1-14 Loughinisland 0-13
CASTLEWELLAN joined Burren in the last four with a hard-fought win over Loughinisland in Downpatrick.
But it came at a cost as influential top scorer Daniel Morgan (0-7) was given a straight red card late in the game.
Cahal Crilly’s opportunist goal on 25 minutes was the game-changer as Kevin Duffin’s attempted point crashed off the post and Crilly was first to react to poke home.
That gave the Town a 1-7 to 0-7 lead and they stayed in front for the remainder of the game.
The sides were level on four occasions up to that point with Rory Mason and Stefan Mason keeping the Blues in the contest from frees but Crilly, Liam McKibben and Morgan kept Castlewellan’s noses in front and despite a late Loughinisland rally, it is the Town who advance into the last four.