/ GAA

Down 1-12 Derry 1-06

Updated: Saturday, 26 Jan 2008 21:30

Ross Carr's Down side have started the year on a bright note
Ross Carr's Down side have started the year on a bright note

Down stormed to victory in tonight's Dr McKenna Cup final, a classy attacking display from Danny Hughes inspiring the Mourne men to a much-needed trophy.

Having failed to win a single game in this competition last year, or in the 2007 National Football League either, this was just the tonic Ross Carr's side needed ahead of what will be a crunch season for the manager.

And on the evidence of this display, he will be confident of winning promotion from Division Three of the NFL, while Derry counterpart Paddy Crozier will be keen to welcome back some of his experienced stars for the Division One campaign, which starts next weekend.

Down's lively attack had a hesitant Derry attack under pressure for long stages of the fist half, with Daniel Hughes setting the game alight with a series of penetrating runs and some superb scores.

The Oak Leafers were forced to shoot from long range, and as a result registered a string of wides, 11 in all in the opening period.

Their only score of the half came from a Paddy Bradley free on 25 minutes, and by that time the Mourne men were well on their way to a comfortable lead, ahead by 0-05 to 0-01.

Hughes had banged over three from play, with John Clarke and Kevin McKernan also on target.

And with Gary McArdle and Ciaran McGovern solid at the back, they were well worth their five points advantage, centre-back Liam Doyle stretching the gap with a late free.

Down could also have had a goal, when Hughes and Cathal Magee combined to send McKernan clear, but John Deighan produced an excellent save.

Crozier introduced experienced attackers Enda Muldoon and Paul Murphy before the break, and facing a 0-06 to 0-01 deficit, they had plenty to do.

Eoghain Bradley was also introduced to the Oak Leaf offensive unit shortly after the restart, and Derry did begin to look threatening, pulling back scores through Ryan Keely and Muldoon.

Down, however, clung on stubbornly to their five points cushion, with Clarke and midfielder Jackie Lynch on target.

And they soon stretched the advantage to six, with Clarke clipping over his third on the end of a neat move.

But Paddy Bradley ignited Derry's challenge when he took a Raymond Wilkinson pass to slot home a 49th minute goal.

Down responded by creating another goal chance at the other end, but once again, Deighan was equal to the task, spreading himself to keep out Ronan Sexton's effort.

Hughes, with his fourth point of the contest, left five between the teams with a quarter of an hour to play, and the industry of Dan Gordon at midfield was largely responsible for keeping their momentum at an impressive level.

And goalkeeper Deighan was finally beaten when substitute Conor Gribben rose to punch home Downey’s towering delivery seven minutes from the end.

Scorers - Down: C Gribben 1-00, D Hughes 0-04, J Clarke 0-03, R Sexton, J Lynch, L Doyle (free), K McKernan, J Fegan (free) 0-01 each. Derry: P Bradley 1-02 (1 free), E Bradley 0-02, R Keely, E Muldoon (free) 0-01 each.

Down: B McVeigh, C McGovern, G McArdle, M Cole, D O'Hanlon, L Doyle, K McGuigan, D Gordon, J Lynch, J Fegan, K McKernan, D Hughes, J Clarke, C Magee, R Sexton.

Derry: J Deighan, K McGuckin, L Hinphey, F McEldowney, M McBride, J Keenan, R Keely,, J Conway, A McElhone, E Lynn, C O'Kane, R Wilkinson, C Devlin, P Bradley, S McGoldrick.

Referee: M Hughes (Tyrone).