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Don't send us back to Athletic Grounds, pleads Derry boss Ger Rogan

By Orla Bannon

Derry 2-19 - Down 1-15: Derry manager Ger Rogan would prefer to toss Antrim for home advantage in Sunday's Ulster hurling final rather than go back to the Athletic Grounds.

Rogan's Oak Leafers won a surprisingly one-sided Ulster SHC semi-final replay in Armagh on Saturday to ease through to the decider against Antrim.

"As fine a stadium as this is, I can't see the logic in coming down to the Athletic Grounds again," he said. "You have to generate and create an interest and we'd be prepared to go to Dunloy.

"To come down here is not pushing the game or the Ulster hurling championship forward.

"We asked for a toss last week and the Ulster Council said no, it had to be a neutral venue, even though for the last 20 years the Ulster final has been in Casement Park.

"I would much prefer to play the game in an atmosphere where people will appreciate and enjoy it."

Down and Derry could not be separated a week earlier, despite playing two bouts of extra-time and over 100 minutes of hurling in Clones, but Saturday's result looked inevitable by half-time.

Derry rattled off an unanswered 1-3 before the break, Ruairi Convery with the goal from a 20m free after 31 minutes.

The Oak Leafers led 1-10 to 0-7 at half time and once they also scored the first three points of the second half, it was game over. Derry sub Michael Conway added their second goal after 56 minutes.

Convery gave an outstanding display, scoring 1-11, while Aaron Kelly and Tiarnan McCloskey chipped over five points between them.

Down relied heavily on the scoring threat of Johnny McCusker, who pulled a goal back in the last minute.

Down manager Ger Monan declined the opportunity to explain why his team played like they had no interest in getting through to an Ulster final.

Rogan said: "It's the will to win".

"Your hurling ability doesn't change in six days, it comes from inside." Asked if his team could trouble hot favourites Antrim, he responded: "Of course."

DERRY: D McDermott; R McCloskey, C Quinn, E McGuckin; A Rafferty, O McCloskey, C McQuillan; S McGuigan, M O'Hagan (0-1); T McCloskey (0-2), J O'Dwyer, A Kelly (0-3); P Cleary, R Convery (1-11, 8f), C Convery (0-1) Subs: P McSorley (0-1) for Rafferty (HT), J McCloskey for McQuillan (HT), T McCloy for McGuigan (44), M Conway (1-0) for O'Hagan (53)

DOWN: S Keith; C Hughes, P Flynn, M Hughes; B Nicholson, C Woods, P Hughes; S Nicholson (0-2, one '65'), R Brannigan; M McGee (0-1), M Ennis (0-2), C O'Prey; M Turley (0-1), J McCusker (1-6, 1f)), C Bailie (0-2). Subs: J Coyle (0-1) for Bailie (37), F Conway for Brannigan (47)

Referee: Garrett Duffy (Antrim)

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