Down ease their way past Antrim to book McKenna Cup semi-final place
Dr McKenna Cup Section B: Down 2-17 Antrim 0-14
From Brendan Crossan in Newry
FOR Cory Quinn’s performance alone, it was worth enduring the freezing temperatures in Newry last night as Down breezed into the Dr McKenna Cup semi-finals at the expense of Antrim.
A brilliant 1-3 in the first half from Quinn helped Down keep the Saffrons at arm’s length and effectively ruined their chances of making the last four.
Down’s infinitely superior attacking quality was arguably the difference in this final group clash with Barry O’Hagan (1-2), Pat Havern (0-4) and Quinn giving their hosts a chastening lesson in finishing.
From their 2-17 tally only one point came from a placed ball.
Mourne boss Paddy Tally will also be happy with his bench as Donal Hughes, Conor Maginn, Liam Kerr and Daniel Guinness all got in on the scoring act.
Antrim kept plugging away to the bitter end but they were too wasteful in possession and had desperate trouble winning their own kick-outs throughout last night’s tie.
They were too reliant on Patrick McBride’s placed balls although Ruairi McCann could yet be the team’s target man come the start of their NFL after showing well again last night.
Antrim might have pinched a last-gasp win against Fermanagh last weekend but Down shut out the light before half-time by grabbing two well-deserved majors.
The Mournemen raced into a 0-3 to no score lead after just three minutes with Antrim struggling to get their hands on Oisin Kerr’s kick-outs.
Barry O’Hagan looked in the mood from the first whistle and opened the scoring with a confident score before the equally lively Pat Havern hit back-to-back points, the first of which coming from an ‘advanced mark’.
Antrim, to their credit, got back on level terms by the 19th minute through two Patrick McBride frees and a fine score from Con Magees debutant Eamon Fyfe after James McAuley decided to drop the ball in on top of Ruairi McCann and Conor Murray, the latter a late replacement for Eoin Nagle of St Enda’s.
Through the malaise of a thousand lateral hand-passes from both teams, Havern, Quinn and Barry O’Hagan rose above the averageness and produced moments of real quality that were warmly applauded by the small crowd in Pairc Esler’s main stand.
On 21 minutes, O’Hagan was the first man in red and black to ripple the net when he pounced on a loose ball that spilled in his direction after a hop ball close to Antrim’s goal to find the corner of the net.
The Clonduff man’s finish put the Mournemen firmly in the driving seat – 1-4 to 0-3 – before Cory Quinn made the hardest part of the game – scoring – look easy.
When most others were struggling to hit the high notes, Quinn showed what real quality looks like by taking his chances from distance with a superb effort and another effective high press on Antrim’s kick-out yielded another point for the diminutive Mayobridge man to put the home side six ahead after the half hour mark.
Young Eunan Walsh grabbed his mandatory point per game from wing half-forward for Antrim while a McBride free and a well-worked score from Ruairi McCann reduced the arrears to three.
And just when Antrim perhaps had designs on reeling their hosts in, Cory Quinn produced two more pieces of magic.
In the 33rd minute he jinked between two Antrim defenders to fire over the bar and raised the second green flag of the night with enviable nimbleness.
Down's second half scores came all too easily for Antrim's liking with Darren O'Hagan making his forward forays count with two smashing scores from his centre half-back position.
Antrim substitute Adam Loughran hit two late points to keep the scoreboard respectable before Guinness, Liam Kerr (0-2) and Conor Maginn breezed through to split the visitors' posts.
Tyrone await the Down men in The Athletic Grounds on Sunday while Antrim have a couple of weeks to iron out their issues ahead of their NFL opener against Paul Galvin's Wexford.
Down: M Hynes; G Collins, K McKernan, R McAleenan; P Laverty, D O’Hagan (0-2), R Carr; J Flynn (0-1), S Dornan; B O’Hagan (1-2), C Quinn (1-3), C Poland; C Harney, P Havern (0-4, 0-1 mark), R McGarry Subs: B Gallen for R Carr (27) Subs: C Maginn (0-1) for C Quinn (h/t), D Guinness (0-1) for C Poland (h/t), D Hughes (0-1) for S Doran (48), L Kerr (0-2) for P Havern (51)
Antrim: O Kerr; R Delargy, R Johnston, M Gardner; D Lynch, J McAuley, P Healy; C Duffin (0-1), N Delargy; E Walsh, P McBride (0-6, frees), K Quinn; E Fyfe (0-1), R McCann (0-4, 0-2 marks), C Murray Subs: P Gallagher for R Johnston (7, inj), R McNulty for E Walsh (h/t), E Nagle for C Murray (h/t), C Small for N Delargy (50), A Loughran (0-2) for E Fyfe (55)
Yellow card: R Delargy (41)
Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)