McErlain is thrilled as Oak Leafers hit clinical best
Derry 2-11 - 1-7 Down
Seldom has the old adage goals win games been more pronounced than in this lively Ulster Minor Football Championship quarter-final tie at Celtic Park, Derry yesterday.
With the game very much in the melting pot entering the last quarter, the home side struck telling goals that parachuted them into the driving seat and ultimately into what promises to be a hugely attractive semi-final meeting with reigning champions Donegal.
And not surprisingly, Derry manager Damian McErlain hailed the importance of those goals in his post-match assessment.
"We kept our composure when they got their goal and then we scored our own two goals. The fact that they came in quick succession was a real boost for us," said McErlain.
"We now have an almighty task against Donegal who will be very, very hard to beat on current form."
Derry, who showed better cohesion throughout and played with greater economy, led by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break with skipper Conor Glass, Feargal Higgins and Jack Doherty to the fore.
Yet Down, even though they missed scoring opportunities and conceded possession rather too easily on occasions, remained very much in touch.
Aaron D'Arcy, Deaghlan Morgan and Aaron Magee all landed points.
Patrick Kearney and the whole-hearted Doherty served to give Derry an edge in midfield and in a sustained blitz immediately prior to half time, a point from the latter coupled with similar scores from Glass and Shea Downey helped to ease the home side into their three-point interval advantage.
That was clinically wiped out within four minutes of the re-start, though. Tiarnan Rushe gathered possession, turned smartly and swept home a superb goal to put Down back on level terms at 1-4 to 0-7.
But that was as good as it got for Shane Mulholland's side. Instead, Derry forced their way back into the game and in the 46th minute Patrick Coney pounced for an opportunist goal.
Scarcely had the Derry cheers subsided when Shane McGuigan pirated a second goal to hoist the Oak Leaf side into a 2-9 to 1-7 advantage.
From then on, it was a stroll for Derry. They cantered over the final furlong with the imperious Glass cementing his versatility by underpinning their defence in majestic style, snuffing out a series of Down attacks and launching sharp counter-thrusts.
Indeed, it was Glass who helped usher Derry over the line with a late point while busy substitute Michael Mullan tacked on another.
Derry: C Mullan-Young; N Keenan, C McGrogan, E Concannon; S Downey 0-1, M McEvoy, C Maunsell; P Kearney, J Doherty 0-2; C Glass 0-3 (all frees), S Higgins, P Coney 1-0; F Higgins 0-2, F Kearney 0-1, S McGuigan 1-1.
Subs: B Cassidy for S Higgins (38 mins), E Murray for P Kearney (47), M Mullan 0-1 for McGuigan (56). Yellow cards: Glass (51), Mullan (58).
Down: J Heaney; C Cox, P Murdock, D McLaughlin; C Carr, M Harte, P Laverty; F Aiken, C J Barr; D Morgan 0-1, J McGovern, A D'Arcy 0-2; C Gordon, T Rushe 1-1, A Magee 0-3 (0-2 frees).
Subs: P J Davidson for McGovern (39), D Connolly for Aiken (41), N Turkington for Gordon (46), O Donnelly for Rushe (55). Black Card: Rushe (55). Yellow card: Barr (51).
Referee: James Lewis (Fermanagh).