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Braniff's goals are not enough as Down face replay

Down and Meath could not be separated after 90 minutes of pulsating hurling on Saturday and so must meet again to decide who faces Kerry in this year's Christy Ring Cup final.

The sides served up a cracking semi-final at Trim, where Meath's Stephen Clynch landed 15 points of the Royals' 1-25 tally, with Paul Braniff bagging 2-5 of Down's 2-22.

Both Braniff's goals came in the first half, helping Down to a 2-11 to 1-9 half-time lead, with the influential Danny Toner also landing three points, however Ger Monan will be counting the cost of nine first half wides if his side doesn't prevail in Saturday's replay.

Down bossed the early exchanges with Braniff, Toner and Donal Hughes all on target for a 1-4 to 0-2 lead on the quarter-hour mark. Gareth Johnston was also causing havoc in the Meath defence, and the big Ballygalget man had a great battle with Micky Burke when the dual star was brought back to do a man-marking job.

Meath replied with a goal through Peter Durnin who made the most of good work by Adam Gannon to fire past Stephen Keith from six yards. Down led by seven, 2-9 to 1-5, after 28 minutes but thereafter Meath gradually chipped away at the deficit, finally levelling matters in the 71st minute through Clynch.

The second half was nip and tuck with Stephen Morris pointing for Meath after just 10 seconds to cut the gap to four.

By the 67th minute, Down still held a three-point lead, 2-17 to 1-17, when Braniff converted a free but points from Durnin and Clynch (0-2) brought the game to extratime.

Clynch and Donal Hughes swapped points early on, but two scores from the Meath sharpshooter gave the Royals a two-point advantage at the halfway stage of extra-time.

A long range free from the impressive Conor Woods and a Braniff brace had Monan's men one to the good. Clynch levelled once more and Johnston, who finally got the better of Burke, looked to have sealed the win when firing over with a minute to go.

However Clynch's 15th point of the day earned Meath a draw in dramatic circumstances with the last puck of the game.

The final is due to take place on Saturday June 8.

Tyrone failed to make a first Rackard Cup final when overrun 3-28 to 0-14 by Roscommon at Athleague, however Ulster representation was assured when Monaghan and Donegal met in the other semi-final. Donegal pulled away in the second half for a 5-12 to 2-09 win.

Belfast Telegraph


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