Derry progress to Ulster Hurling final after replay win over Down

Derry 2-19 Down 1-15

Captain and chief marksman Ruairi Convery led by example with a 1-11 haul as Derry qualified for their second Ulster Senior Hurling Championship final in three years.

The Oak Leafers ran out comprehensive winners of this semi-final replay at the Athletic Grounds to set up a clash next weekend with defending champions Antrim, who have lifted the trophy every year since Derry last won back in 2001.

Full-forward Convery netted a close-in free to put some precious daylight between the sides after half an hour's play in Armagh - 1-7 to 0-7.

The Swatragh star's goal helped his wind-backed side produce a strong finish to the first half which ended 1-10 to 0-7 in their favour.

With Down failing to seize the initiative in the second period, Convery and Aaron Kelly led the scoring as Derry pulled further clear and Mickey Conway, at the ripe old age of 38, came off the bench to slot home the clinching second goal.

Down mustered a late rally with top scorer Johnny McCusker (1-6) grabbing a last-minute consolation goal as the winning margin was cut to seven points.

The Ulster GAA Council have the provincial decider pencilled in for tomorrow week (July 13), meaning that Ger Rogan's men are facing their third Championship game in as many weeks.

Derry and Down had played out an exhaustive 3-28 to 5-22 draw in Clones last Saturday when even two spells of extra-time - four halves in all - failed to separate them.

Today's rematch saw highly-rated midfielder Scott Nicholson knock over a '65' in the third minute to give Down an early lead.

The Mourne men, who had led by 10 points at one stage in the drawn match, managed to double their advantage before Aaron Kelly got Derry off the mark in the seventh minute.

Ace free-taker Convery and Malachy O'Hagan had the Oak Leafers level at 0-3 apiece six minutes later.

Convery's younger brother Christopher pointed Derry ahead but the lead regularly changed hands in the opening half with McCusker and Kelly producing levelling scores.

Kelly made it 0-6 apiece in the 25th minute and eventually the strong breeze behind Derry began to prove influential.

Ruairi Convery came into his own by lashing over a 60-metre free to edge Ger Rogan's men in front and his well-struck goal made it 1-7 to 0-7.

Down leaked three more points before the break with goal scorer Convery on target twice and Tiarnan McCloskey hitting the final score from play.

It was now a question of what could Down do when turning around with the wind in their favour. But determined Derry continued where they left off with McCloskey, Ruairi Convery and half-time substitute Conor McSorley stretching the lead out to 1-13 to 0-7.

Down soon fell 10 points in arrears after Convery added two more scores to his tally, the first coming from a fine piece of defending by Ruairi McCloskey.

Convery and Kelly, who was influential in open play, made it 1-17 to 0-8 with 20 minutes remaining and lacklustre Down looked out for the count.

The Mourne outfit managed to make it into double figures, but Conway's 56th-minute goal ended the game as a contest.

DERRY: D McDermott; R McCloskey, C Quinn, E McGuckin; A Rafferty, O McCloskey, C McQuillan; S McGuigan, M O'Hagan (0-1); T McCloskey (0-2), J O'Dwyer, A Kelly (0-3); P Cleary, R Convery (1-11, 0-08f, 0-1 '65'), C Convery (0-1).

Subs: P McSorley (0-1) for Rafferty, J McCloskey for McQuillan (both half-time), T McCloy for McGuigan (44 mins), M Conway (1-0) for O'Hagan (53).

DOWN: S Keith; C Hughes, P Flynn, M Hughes; B Nicholson, C Woods, P Hughes; S Nicholson (0-2, 0-1 '65'), R Brannigan; M McGee (0-1), M Ennis (0-2), C O'Prey; M Turley (0-1), J McCusker (1-6, 0-1f), C Bailie (0-2).

Subs used: J Coyle (0-1) for Bailie (37 mins), F Conway for Brannigan (47).

Referee: Garrett Duffy (Antrim)

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