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Fine form: Portaferry’s Conor Mageean

Fine form: Portaferry’s Conor Mageean

Fine form: Portaferry’s Conor Mageean

Portaferry will be glad to have got this out of the way in what was something of a no-win situation for the Down champions.

Overwhelming favourites and expected to account for Fermanagh's Lisbellaw in straightforward fashion, the Mourne men laboured for their nine point win.

They were wasteful in front of goal, particularly in the second half and will know that improvement is needed for the final where they will meet either Slaughtneil or Cushendall who must do it all again after their replay.

In truth Portaferry were never in danger of losing the game and they were always able to string together a few scores when needed to ease away from Lisbellaw, who can be very happy with the hour's hurling that they produced.

Conor Mageean was in fine form throughout for Portaferry and the evergreen Paul Braniff showed real touches of class alongside him in the middle of the field. Ciaran Coulter played with pace and power and was rewarded with a cracking score.

The Fermanagh men replied to two first half Portaferry goals with one of their own with Sean Corrigan tapping into an empty net after his dummied pass had fooled the defence and keeper.

But any slim chance Lisbellaw had evaporated just before half time when Robert Magee struck a low crisp shot to the net after Mark Curry had successfully thwarted Conor Mageean's shot.

Portaferry were threatening their second goal for 10 minutes at that stage and probably should have been happy to tap over a few points but the feeling was in the air that they wanted to get this one wrapped up quickly.

Fermanagh kingpins Lisbellaw were proving a dogged opponent, and while they were not as slick as the Down men in terms of stick work and all round fitness they lacked nothing in determination and effort with John Duffy and JP McGarry leading their efforts.

The deficit was cut to just seven points with a couple of Duffy long range frees in the first half but there was never any danger of the game ending in anything other than a convincing Portaferry win.

Conor Mageean reacted quickest in a box of bodies to get his hurl to the sliothar for the opening goal of the game after 15 minutes.

Braniff was controlling things around the middle for the Down champs while corner back Conor O'Prey landed two monster frees.

Portaferry now have two weeks to reach the intensity needed to have a tilt at the title.

Scores: Portaferry: R Magee 1-3, P Braniff 0-06 (0-04f), C Mageean 1-01, A O'Prey 0-02, C O'Prey 0-02f, C Coulter 0-01, S Mageean 0-01, A Savage 0-01. Lisbellaw: S Corrigan 1-05 (0-05f), J Duffy 0-05f, D Teague 0-01

Portaferry: K Keating, C Taggart, C O'Neill. C O'Prey, M Conlan, J Convrey, C Coulter, A Savage, C Mageean, B Coleman, P Braniff, A O'Prey, S Mageean, E Sands R Magee Subs: S Murray for (41) Coleman, F Rodgers for Braniff (49),

Lisbellaw: M Curry, D Teague, F Bannon, C Corrigan, M Teague, M Slevin, O Russel, J Duffy, R Porteous,B Duffy Breslin, T Cleary, K Kehoe, JP McGarry, S Mulholland, S Corrigan

Subs: A Breslin for Porteous (HT), C McShea for Mulholland (HT), J Gavin for Russel (49), M Williamson for Cleary (51)

Referee: Owen Elliott, Antrim

Belfast Telegraph