DERRY MINORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2-19
DOWN MINORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3-09
However, once Shane Farren, who was far and away the best forward afield, put Derry 0-07 to 1-03 in the lead, the Oakleaf Minors were never headed, although their 0-09 to 1-04 interval advantage was tenuous, given that they had to face the strong breeze.
Derry manager, Brian McGilligan, was not pleased with the first half display, although he was more impressed with their second half reaction when they picked off some delightful scores.
And it would be hard to fault the defensive displays of Brian Og McGilligan and Pearse McGrath, the former a dominant presence at centre half-back when Derry were under pressure in the first half, the latter unyielding in front of goal in the second period whenever Down launched high balls into the danger area.
Derry were also well served in the middle third where Liam Murphy and Caolan McGurk gave assured displays, while wing forward Gerald Bradley’s work rate was unrelenting and productive as Derry’s two inside forwards Shane Farren and Cormac Doherty contributed 2-13 between them in a swashbuckling display of clinical finishing.
Right from the start Farren tormented the Down defence with his artistry and his accurate finishing, adding 1-04 in the second half to his first half haul of 0-06 that pulled Derry back into a game that was in danger of slipping away from them.
His corner forward partner scored 1-02 from play as Derry took control in the second half, although McGilligan will be disappointed that they allowed Down to add to Matthew Conlan’s goal in the 44th minute with a late third from a long distance free that eluded backs and forwards to drop into the net.
Still a seven point win over Down is a good result, and the Oak Leaf youngsters will surely have benefitted from a stiffer test after their near whitewash of Tyrone.
On ninety seconds Caolan Baille, who was Down’s most productive forward with 1-05, opened the scoring. And Matthew Conlan put Down two points ahead in the 5th minute, Derry looking rather fragile against a determined Down side. However Derry did get into their stride two minutes later when Shane Farren made it 0-02 to 0-01, Liam Murphy levelling the scores from distance.
The Derry defence was all at sea when Sean O’Callaghan played the sliothar into the goalmouth, keeper Gerard Keenan coming off his line but failing to reach the ball, Nicholson knocking the sliothar along the ground and into the net.
Farren pounced on a loose ball in the 18th minute to send it over the bar for Derry’s first score in 10 minutes.
That seemed to release the tension that had permeated the team in the opening quarter and Liam Murphy lifted their spirits with a tremendous point from the middle of the field.
Two minutes later Gareth O’Neill fouled Farren and the Banagher sharp-shooter converted the free.
He was now in the zone and added another point from a long ball by Michael Warnock, levelling the scores at 0-06 to 1-03 eight minutes from the short whistle.
Moments later Derry corner back Joe O’Loughlin drew a free from Caolan Baille and Farren trotted back from his corner forward position to knock the ball effortlessly between the posts from the half way line for 0-08 to 1-03.
In the 26th minute Liam Murphy was fouled and Farren opened up a three point lead but that would be their last score of the half, Lorcan McMullan grabbing a well-taken Down point in the final minute of the half.
Farren continued where he’s left off in the first half when Cormac Doherty slipped the ball to him a minute into the second half. Down’s Michael Conway slotted over a point after five minutes of nervous play from both sides before Dominic Mullan responded with an excellent point, Farren then guiding the ball just inside the post from an acute angle when he was fouled out on the right side line.
The Derry defence was found wanting midway through the half when Brett Nicholson won the puck out and played the sliothar long to his brother Myles who slipped it deftly to team captain, Matthew Conlan and he blasted it past keeper Keenan from close range.
With one point between the sides, and 15 minutes remaining, the game was very much in the melting pot, the momentum slightly favouring the Mourne lads.
However, Mark Egan conceded a free and Farren did the rest, Cormac Doherty then taking a pass from a Tiarnan McCloskey free, slipping his marker with a delightful piece of stick work and arrowing the ball just inside the post.
In a twinkling Derry were back in command, three points ahead and in control. Yet the Derry defence had to survive another Down attack but, when keeper Keenan fumbled a cross from Conlan on the left, Pearse McGrath made a terrific goal-line clearance from a Myles Nicholson close range shot, Ryan Farren clearing upfield to Gerald Bradley who relieved the pressure with an excellent point.
McCloskey found Farren from a free and he flicked the ball over his shoulder, and the bar, for a five point lead 10 minutes from time.
Moments later Cormac Doherty had the ball in the net and Derry were now set fair for the semi final.
Eoin Crossan fouled McMullan and Baille pointed the free from the ‘45’ metre line. Doherty and Mullan then combined to set up Rodgers for a retaliatory score but, with three minutes of additional time announced, Caolan Baille lofted a free into the goalmouth and it eluded everyone to nestle snugly in the back of the net.
Remarkably there were now three points between the sides.
Brett Nicholson was booked for a rash challenge on Doherty and Farren eased the jangling nerves with a point from the free. In the closing minutes Farren ended all Derry concerns when he blasted the ball to the net for the last score of the game.
The Derry scorers were Shane Farren 1-11, 0-04 frees, 0-01 side line cut, Cormac Doherty 1-02, Liam Murphy 0-02, Dominic Mullan, Brendan Rodgers, Brian Og McGilligan, Gerald Bradley 0-01 each
DERRY - Gerard Keenan; Pearse McGrath, Michael Warnock, Joseph O’Loughlin; Tiarnan McCloskey, Brian Og McGilligan, Ryan Farren; Liam Murphy, Caolan McGurk; Gerard Bradley, Oran McFlynn, Eanna Cassidy; Shane Farren, Dominic Mullan, Cormac Doherty. Subs., Eoin Crossan for O’Loughlin (36 mins.); Kieran McIntyre for Cassidy (36 mins.), Brendan Rodgers for McFlynn (46 mins.)
DOWN - Sean Savage; Mark Egan, Michael McCullagh, Gareth O’Neill; Brett Nicholson, Conor O’Neill, Chris Egan; Sean O Callaghan, Caolan Dorrian; Caolan Baille, Matthew Conlan, Michael Conway; Sean Mageean, Myles Nicholson, Lorcan McMullan. Subs., Eoghan Sands for Mageenan (half-time), Danny McGlinchey for Dorrian (48 mins.)
REFEREE - Mr. Colm Cunning (Antrim).