A tremendous six points from Ryan Bell helped Derry into the next round of the All Ireland Championship qualifiers when they beat Down by five points in Celtic Park on Saturday.
Down, who beat Derry in the quarter final of this year’s Ulster Championship at Celtic Park last month, only registered one score in the second half and they were forced to finish the game with 13 men when Brendan McArdle and Kevin McKernan were both sent off.
Down went into a two point lead after ten minutes after Donal O’Hare converted two free kicks.
Derry responded in the tenth minute when P.J. McCloskey found team mate Ryan Bell with a tremendous pass; Ballinderry man Bell put the ball between the posts from 18 metres out.
Eoin Bradley brought both sides level two minutes later when he pointed with ease from 20 metres out.
Bradley won a free kick in the 18th minute and Derry took the lead when James Kielt converted the set piece to leave the score at 0-3 to 0-2 to Brian McIver’s men.
It took 28 minutes for Down to register their first score from open play; Ambrose Rogers surged forward toward the Derry 20 metre mark before kicking the ball over the bar.
Another Ryan Bell score from play in the 25th minute and a free kick from over 50 metres away from goal from James Kielt saw Derry extend their lead to two points and Lee Kennedy made it a one score game when he made the score 0-6 to 0-3 to the Oak Leafers in the 29th minute.
Ryan Bell showed his consistency when he pointed in the third minute but Derry’s impressive first half display came crashing down around them when they allowed Donal O’Hare in to score in the 35th minute.
O’Hare found the back of the Derry net when he received a good pass from Kevin Kernan and the corner forward restored parity with the last kick of the first half when he converted his third free of the game.
Down were limited to just one score in the second half and an outstanding display from Ryan Bell ensured Derry emerged as worthy winners.
Derry defended heroically and their second half performance in particular will be one Brian McIver will want them to replicate in the third round of the qualifiers.
DERRY: Eoin McNicholl; Aidan McAlynn, Chrissy McKaigue, Dermot McBride; Charlie Kielt, Mark Lynch, Sean Leo McGoldrick; Patsy Bradley, PJ McCloskey; Conor McAtamney, James Kielt (0-2, 2f), Enda Lynn; Ryan Bell (0-6, 2f), Eoin Bradley (0-2), Lee Kennedy (0-1).
Subs: Emmet McGuckin (0-2) for Lee Kennedy 45 mins, Benny Herron for Conor McAtamney 54 mins, Ciaran McFaul for Ryan Bell 70 mins.
DOWN: Brendan McVeigh; Daniel McCartan, Brendan McArdle, Keith Quinn; Declan Rooney, Peter Turley, Ryan Boyle; Kalum King, Kevin McKernan; Ambrose Rogers (0-1), Mark Poland, Niall Madine; Conor Laverty, Brendan Coulter, Donal O’Hare (1-4, 4f).
Subs: Brendan Coulter for Niall Madine 45 mins, Ryan Mallon for Jerome Johnston, Danny Hughes for Keith Quinn 54 mins, Danny Savage for Peter Turley 68 mins.
REFEREE: Cormac Reilly (Meath).