Derry beat 14-man Down
DERRY 0-12 DOWN 0-11
Derry won their first Ulster Championship match since 2011 when they edged out Down at Celtic Park.
Even though they were relegated from Division 1 this spring the fact that they were playing at a higher standard compared to their opponents who were promoted from Division 2 proved significant.
Down, who beat Derry at the venue in the Ulster series two years ago, were in trouble at half time when they trailed by three points and having to play virtually the entire second half with 14 men didn't help their cause either.
But as often happens in these situations Down played their best football despite their numerical disadvantage. Twice they drew level with Paul Devlin's free-taking proving crucial.
Indeed, the game looked to be heading for a replay until Down corner back Darren O'Hagan was black carded and Eoin Bradley tapped over the resultant 13m free in the 71st minute for what proved the winning score in a low quality contest.
Derry now advance to meet the winners of next weekend's showdown between Donegal and Armagh in the provincial semi-final while Jim McCorry's side have to try and relaunch their season through the qualifiers.
On the evidence of this performance they could have a short summer. Obviously, Derry will be boosted by the victory but significant improvement will be required if
they are to make progress in the series.
Derry's two key players performed in the first half with recalled full forward Eoin Bradley kicking three early points and play-maker Mark Lynch adding three more - including two in injury time - to give the home side a deserved 0-8 to 0-5 interval lead.
Down's ponderous build-up and their lack of physically powerful forwards militated against their prospects of making a telling impact against Derry's well marshalled blanket defence.
The visitors suffered another blow early in the second half when wing back Conaill McGovern was red carded by referee Eddie Kinsella after he lashed out at Enda Lynn in an off-the-ball incident.
Down were reduced to taking long speculative punts from distance and they kicked three wides in succession as the game ebbed away from them.
Trailing by four points (0-10; 0-6) the contest looked beyond them. But in the moment of deepest crisis their response was admirable, though it was aided by poor discipline from the Derry defence.
They conceded three frees on the spin which Paul Devlin converted and Conor Laverty pointed to tie up the contest and all the momentum was now with 14-man
But in the end they couldn't hold on for the draw which their performance in the last 30 minutes probably merited.