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Down McKenna Cup quest hots up thanks to victory against UUJ

Down 1-13 UUJ 1-07

By Martin Kelly

New Down boss Jim McCorry feels his side can go far in the McKenna Cup after last night keeping themselves in the hunt for a semi-final spot with a six-point victory over UUJ at Pairc Esler.

The game was played in absolutely terrible conditions, the gale-force wind and driving rain making decent football impossible.

McCorry said: "Despite the atrocious conditions, we played some nice football.

"When the ball was played forward and we had good support play, we picked off some tidy scores."

Kevin McKernan - stretchered off on Sunday against Monaghan - came on for Down in the second half much to the delight of the Mourne County faithful.

Down got off to a great start. Just 55 seconds had gone when Arthur McConville lofted in a long ball. It seemed easy for UUJ full back Ricky Johnston or keeper Sean Fox who both jumped for the ball, but Conor Laverty beat both to the punch to fist into the net.

The students replied when Coalan Mooney, of whom big things are expected this season in the Down camp, showed terrific pace to run 40 yards before taking an excellent point from 35 yards.

The home side's Paul Devlin restored his team's three-point advantage on 19 minutes but Cillian O'Connor did likewise two minutes later.

The Mournemen went in at the break with a five-point lead after scores from Conor Maginn, Danny McKay, Donal O'Hare and Devlin, with O'Connor replying for the visitors.

Both sides had goal opportunities. On 23 minutes UUJ keeper Fox bravely blocked as Devlin looked a sound bet to net. While at the other end the Mourne net-minder Stephen Kane stopped a Caolan O'Boyle close range drive on 27 minutes.

Earlier Kane also did well to thwart Killian Brady as the Jordanstown corner back broke clear.

Down began the second half with points in the opening minutes, O'Hare and Peter Fitzpatrick on target.

But the students bounced back into contention with a bizarre goal. On 40 minutes Down keeper Kane, under pressure from Niall McKeever, slipped on the goal-line with the big midfielder getting a fist to the ball and touching it over the line.

For the next 15 minutes it was end to end with Down adding three scores via O'Hare, Arthur McConville and Naill Madine in the process, the latter bringing a wonderful save from Fox.

While UUJ sub Patrick McBrearty pointed twice with O'Connor then knocking over a free.

On 50 minutes after a McKeever point, the university were just three adrift.

However, Down finished the match strongly with three unanswered scores - from sub Cathal Crilly, and one each from O'Hare and Laverty. And the margin of victory might have been a lot bigger had Fox not made a stunning save as McConville broke through.

The crowd who braved the biting elements seemed to agree when it was announced that Down corner back Darren O'Hagan was Bank Of Ireland Man of the Match.

DOWN: S Kane; D O'Hagan, L Howar d, D Turley; M Magee, B McArdle, D McKay (0-1); N Madine, P Fitzpatrick (0-1); P Devlin (0-3, 2 frees), C McGovern, C Maginn (0-1); C Laverty (1-0), A McConville (0-1), D O'Hare (0-4, 2 frees), subs: C Garvey for McKay (halftime), K McKernan for Turley (53), C Crilly (0-1) for McGovern (61), K Anderson for McConville (65).

Yellow cards: P Devlin (8), L Howard 40)

Black card: Madine (56) replaced by P Turley

UUJ: S Fox; K Brady, R Johnston, D McNally; B Sankey, M Donnelly, C Harkin; C Mooney (0-1), N McKeever (1-01); F Burns, C O'Boyle, R Donnelly; L Gervin, R O'Neill, C O'Connor (0-3, 3 frees). Subs: K Hughes (for Harkin (halftime), P McBrearty for Gervin (halftime: 0-2), M Johnston (for Sankey: 46), P Casey (for M Donnelly: 52), M Donnelly for McNally (58), J McGovern for Burns (67), R McAlinden for R Donnelly (67).

Yellow cards: M Donnelly (28), N McKeever (58)

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