Keeper Hazard books Down's place in semi with last-ditch penalty save
Down 2-13 Armagh 2-11
An Ulster Minor Football Championship that has produced a rich diet of skill and excitement to date moved into the haute cuisine division yesterday when Down just managed to edge out neighbours Armagh in a pulsating encounter at Pairc Esler, Newry.
The outcome was only decided in the dying moments when Armagh's Tiernan Kelly saw his penalty well saved by Down goalkeeper Jack Hazard thus ensuring the home side advanced to the semi-finals.
Up until then, the match had largely been in the melting pot, although Down looked to have stamped their authority firmly on proceedings when they led by 1-6 to 0-1 with less than 20 minutes gone.
Conor McCrickard and Liam Kerr, who were to land 2-12 between them, had already served notice of their intention to seriously discomfit the Armagh defence while in contrast the orchard county attack carried little venom up until then.
McCrickard's 11th minute goal helped to sustain Down's momentum but Ross McQuillan and Conor Turbitt each landed a brace of points as Armagh trimmed the deficit back to 1-7 to 0-6 at the halfway stage.
A second McCrickard goal on the resumption reinvigorated Down and when Kerr tacked on a point the Mourne side were again well in the clear at 2-8 to 0-7.
Yet once again the visitors managed to rein them in, Tiernan Kelly's superb 38th minute goal underpinning their recovery before the consistently accurate Kerr swung over three points in a four-minute spell that appeared to leave Down set for a comfortable run-in.
That proved far from the case, though.
Even though they contrived to miss a series of chances, Armagh's stubborn streak surfaced and with just over two minutes of normal time remaining, skipper Ross McQuillan flashed in their second goal.
This certainly set the scene for a dramatic climax.
Armagh full-forward Conor Turbitt, who was impressive throughout, was upended in the square with the score at 2-13 to 2-10 but Kelly saw his penalty effort well saved by goalkeeper Jack Hazard.
It was over and out for the orchard county side but a huge step forward for Down at this level.
Down: J Hazard; C Fitzsimons, B Gallen, T Gordon; F McElroy, C Clarke, P Fegan; S Annett, R McCrickard; R Anderson, R McCormick, D McClements 0-1; T Prenter, C McCrickard 2-4 (2f), L Kerr 0-8 (4f). Subs: R Carr for Gordon (33), A McConville for Kerins (50), C Gribben for McClements (53), S Dornan for Carr (62). Yellow cards: Prenter (43), R McCrickard (58).
Armagh: M Magill; J Haddock, S McCarthy, E McCabe; R Meehan, J Haughey, R McGuinness; K Doyle, Z Burnickis; R McQuillan 1-4 (3f), J Kierans, A McEvoy 0-1; C McConville 0-1 (f), C Turbitt 0-3, T Kelly 1-2. Subs: C Magennis for McCarthy (49), N Magennis for McEvoy (55). Yellow cards: Haughey (31), R McGuinness (60).
Referee: Martin Conroy (Tyrone).