Down qualified for a semi-final meeting with Donegal on Wednesday night, but not after a thrilling comeback by Derry that came very close to derailing the Mournemen’s hopes of a last four place.
In the second quarter Callum King and Ambrose Rodgers took control in the middle of the field, with Mark Poland, Ronan Murtagh and John Clarke then giving the Derry defence a torrid time as they picked off scores at will to build a comfortable lead.
Fergal Doherty and Liam Hinphey nettled hard to keep Derry in contention in the middle third but it was only when Joe Diver joined them in the midfield diamond that Derry took full control of this sector.
With Andrew McCartney showing up well Derry whittled away at the lead but Down finished the stronger to claim the top spot and a semi-final place.
Derry could have had the ball in the net inside twenty seconds but Joe Diver palmed a Seamus Bradley cross against the bar. The latter did put them ahead in the third minute but John Clarke levelled from a free, Callum King on target after Liam Hinphey had put Derry 0-02 to 0-01 ahead.
Fergal Doherty found himself one on one with the keeper ten minutes from half time but sent the ball straight at Declan Elder, a goal chance spurned.
Wilkinson and McComisky exchanged points, Murtagh and Poland on target before Charlie Kielt had a 36th minute point to cut Down’s half time advantage to 0-09 to 0-04.
Four minutes into the second half Mark Lynch gave Derry hope with a pointed free but, after Conor McGinn had extended the Down lead, Barry McGuigan fouled Paul McComisky in the goalmouth and the referee awarded a penalty.
Derry keeper Marty Dunne made a wonderful save from Martin Clarke’s spot kick but could not hold on to the ball and Clarke netted the rebound. He added a point from a ‘45’ for a 1-11 to 0-05 lead.
From that point onwards Derry took control, whittling away at the lead until Seamus Bradley bundled the ball over the goal line in the 59th minute to leave two between the sides, 1-12 to 1-10.
Although Derry did draw level at 1-13 each they were unable to take the lead and substitute Paul McComisky scored two late points for a deserved victory.
Derry: Dunne, McGoldrick, G O’Kane (0-1), J O’Kane, Kielt (0-2), Lynch (0-1), McGuigan, Doherty (0-2), Hinphey (0-1), McCartney (0-2), Wilkinson (0-1), Lynn, S Bradley (1-2), Diver, O’Neill. Subs: Mullan for J O’Kane 31 mins, McLaughlin (0-1) for O’Neill h/t, P Bradley for McGuigan 45 mins,
Down: Declan Alder, Dan McCartan, Conor Garvey, Damian Lafferty, Kevin Duffin, Kevin McKernan, Aidan Carr (0-2), Callum King (0-1), Ambrose Rodgers, Ronan Murtagh (0-3), Mark Poland (0-2), Peter Fitzgerald, John Clarke (0-2), James McGovern, Conor McGinn (0-2). Subs: Paul McComisky (0-3) for James McGovern 20 mins, Martin Clarke (1-2) for Ronan Murtagh h/t, Conor Laverty for Conor McGinn 52 mins, Paul Greenan for Callum King 53 mins, Sean Parr for Aidan Carr 71 mins.
Referee: Sean McLaughlin (Donegal).