Ulster U21HC final: awesome Oak Leafers see off Ardsmen

July 26, 2017

Derry's Odhran McKeever with Down's Brooke Byers during the Ulster U21HC final ©INPHO/Presseye/Matt Mackey

Substitute Corey O'Reilly netted twice as Derry claimed a 3-17 to 1-9 victory over Down at Corrigan Park.

Having secured their first provincial title in this grade since 2008 and sixth in total, the Oak Leaf County - who ousted nine-in-a-row chasing Antrim at the semi-final stage - will now square up to Leinster champions Kilkenny on August 19th in the last four for a place in the All-Ireland final in September.

The winners led by 1-9 to 1-5 at half time, with Brian Cassidy firing their first goal five minutes from the break after Oisin McManus had netted for Down five minutes in.

The Ardsmen - who had midfielder Jordan Doran sent off late on - made a terrific start to lead by 1-2 to no score after five minutes, with Cormac Coulter and Barry Trainor pointing before McManus supplied the first goal of the night. Daragh Carton opened Derry's account in the seventh minute and impressive midfielder Conor McAllister lofted over their fifth successive score as they drew level by the twelfth minute, 0-5 to 1-2.

After Down edged back ahead, Cormac O'Doherty and Coulter traded points and raiding wing back Shane McGuigan drew Derry level again with eight minutes left before the break. Corner forward Cassidy netted in the 25th minute to fire the Oak Leaf ahead for the first time (a lead they would not surrender) and Cartin's free made it a four-point game; a Cassidy point cancelled out one at the other end from wing back Mark Fisher ('65') as Collie McGurk's charges led by four at the interval.

Cartin teased Derry's lead out to five a couple of minutes after the action resumed and O'Doherty's '65' flew over in response to Down scores from Daithi Sands and captain Pearse Og McCrickard. Odhran McKeever (2) and Cartin (free) added further points for the Foylesiders as they led by seven with 40 minutes played, 1-14 to 1-7.

There was an exchange between Coulter (free) and Eamonn McGill as the Oak Leaf kept their noses comfortably in front going into the final quarter. Fisher pulled back another pointed '65' to leave six between them but - in the 54th minute - supersub O'Reilly netted twice to double the margin and effectively finish the match as a contest - 3-15 to 1-9.

McAllister registered the last point in injury time as Oak Leaf County captain Ciaran Steele collected the silverware and deadly Derry sealed a place in the All-Ireland series with a very solid all-round team display in Belfast.

Derry - F McEldowney; S Higgins, P Turner, P McNeill; R McCartney, C Steele (0-1), S McGuigan (0-1); C McAllister (0-2), J Mullan; E McGill, S Cassidy, O McKeever (0-2); D Cartin (0-7, 5f), C O'Doherty (0-2), B Cassidy (1-2). Subs - C O'Reilly (2-0) for Mullan, N Smyth for O'Doherty, P Burke for McKeever.

Down - H Flynn; B Myers, D Mallon, P McManus; M Fisher (0-2, 2f), E Coulter, R Courtney; L Savage, J Doran; B Trainor (0-1), D Sands, (0-1) R Campbell (0-1); O McManus (1-0), P McCrickard (0-1), C Coulter (0-3, 3f). Subs -M Pattterson for P McManus, N Breen for C Coulter, O Duggan for O McManus.

Ref - C Cunning (Antrim)

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