McKENNA CUP: Late Toner goal gives Derry victory over Down

A late Niall Toner goal gave Derry victory nover Down in Celtic Park.
A late Niall Toner goal gave Derry victory nover Down in Celtic Park.

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup, Section B

Derry 1-14, Down 2-10

Niall Toner's superb last minute goal made it two McKenna Cup wins from two as Derry fought back to defeat Down at a foggy Celtic Park on Wednesday night.

Toner's 69th minute strike put Damian McErlain's men into the lead for the first time since Peter Hagan had opened the scoring in the fourth minute and means, with Armagh drawing against the ulster University, the Derry top Section B going into the last round of group matches on Sunday.

It leaves an intriguing 'take two' weekend trip to the Athletic Grounds where either side could still top the group through it is very debatable if either manager will relish the prospect of the McKenna Cup semi-final so close to the start of the National League

McErlain made two changes to the side he had named for Sunday's postponed clash with Armagh, Mark Lynch and Conor Doherty coming in for Kevin Johnston and Padraig McGrogan.

Down named a reasonably strong starting 15 with both Kevin McKernan and Caolan Mooney in a team that enjoyed the better of the opening half.

Perhaps it was the reduced visibility due to the heavy fog, but Derry struggled with the Down front men for much of the first 35 minutes with Shay Millar especially enjoying the wide open spaces Derry were affording him.

Millar and McKernan were the link men that ensured a plentiful supply of ball into Sean Dornan and James McGuinness and the visitors were good value for 2-07 to 0-8 half-time lead.

A Peter Hagan free opened the scoring for Derry but by the time Enda Lynn grabbed the Oak Leafers second point of the night on 14 minutes, the Mourne men had hit 1-03.

McKernan, Millar and a lovely 50m free from Anthony Doherty were followed by a clinical Dornan goal.

McKernan was the instigator, superbly winning ball in the middle of the field and turning Michael McEvoy before feeding the ball into Dornan who was too strong for Conor McCluskey and advanced to slot a lovely low finish past Oran Hartin.

Ronan Millar and Mark Lynch swapped frees before Mooney made it 1-5 to 0-3 on 19 minutes and 60 seconds later Down had their second goal.

Liam McGoldrick looked to be fouled in the build up but Down weren't waiting on the referee's whistle as Millar rolled a pass across the floor to Dornan. The full forward's shot was superbly saved by Hartin but the ball spilled loose and into the path of McKernan who had the easiest of tasks to tap into the empty net.

Lynn and Lynch responded with Derry scores with Millar tagging on another for the visitors.

Two further Derry scores brought McErlain's men back to within five points when Down were indebted to keeper Shane Harrison for a wonderful one handed save from Jordan Curran's goal bound effort.

Millar rounded off a brilliant individual half by robbing Jack Doherty and running half the length of the pitch to score but Lynn's third point ensured Derry's was the last score of the half as the Oak Leafers turned around trailing by five.

Derry introduced Michael Bateson at the break, having dropped Conor Doherty into sweeper at the end of the first half and it paid dividends as the Oak Leafers hit four of the second half's opening five scores to bring it back to 0-12 to 2-08, Lynn the architect of the comeback with three points including one free.

That burst wrestled control of the game from the visitors and Derry never gave it back although the victory still looked unlikely until Toner picked up after Millar had been dispossessed, burst past two Down defenders and slotted home superbly at Harrison's near post.

There was still time for Derry's Conor McAtamney to be dismissed on a second booking but the Oak Leafers navigated almost five added minutes with relative ease to maintain McErlain's 100% record as Derry boss.

Derry: Oran Hartin; Conor McCluskey, Liam McGoldrick, Ruairi Mooney; Patrick Coney, Michael McEvoy, Jordan Curran; Conor McAtamney, Jack Doherty; Enda Lynn (0-6, 2f), Ciaran McFaul (0-1), Conor Doherty; Peter Hagan (0-2, 2f), Mark Lynch (0-3, 1f), Niall Toner (1-0).

(Subs) Michael Bateson for J Curran, H/T; Patrick Kearney (0-1) for C McCluskey (inj) 42mins; James Kielt (0-1, 1f) for M Lynch, 52mins; Fergal Higgins for P Hagan, 59mins;

Down: Shane Harrison; Colm Flanagan, Gerard McGovern, Brendan McArdle; Anthony Doherty (0-1,1f), Niall McParland, Caolan Mooney (0-1); Aaron Morgan (0-1), Conor Poland; Shay Millar (0-3), Kevin McKernan (1-2), Conor Francis; Ronan Millar (0-1, 1f), Sean Dornan (1-0), James Guinness.

(Subs) Barry O'Hagan for C Francis, 42mins; Darragh O'Hanlon (0-1, 1f), for J Guinness, 51mins; Connaire Harrison for C Mooney, 57mins; xxxxxx for S Dornan, 61mins; Shane Murray for R Millar, 65mins; Johnny Flynn for N McParland (Black Card), 65mins;

Yellow Cards: C Harrison, 63mins;

Blacks Cards: Niall McParland, 65mins;

Referee: Anthony Marron (Monaghan)