By Steve Malone

Kilcoo (Down) 0-12 Slaughtneil (Derry)  1-11

Slaughtneil's Ulster Club SFC title defence remains on track after a bruising victory over Down champions Kilcoo on Sunday.

Patsy Bradley’s 37th-minute goal was the decisive score after he punched home Brendan Rodgers' inviting long ball to the edge of the square.

Played in Newry’s Pairc Esler, both teams saw red in what was a cagey and captivating encounter.

Kilcoo’s Dylan Ward and Eugene Branagan and Slaughtneil’s Paul McNeill made it easy for referee Niall Cullen to dish out red cards but the fewer number of players on the pitch only added to the intensity of an epic battle.

Indeed Slaughtneil’s goalkeeper Antoin McMullen pulled off three heroic saves, denying Darragh O’Hanlon from the penalty spot with ten minutes to go. It was a frantic finish but the Derry champions held out for a deserved victory.

It was a tense and captivating opening half but the defending Ulster Champions looked the more assured side going in at the break.

Kilcoo took an early lead after Paul Devlin was allowed to solo 30-metres unchallenged before striking from distance but the Magpies were reduced to 14 men as early as the ninth minute when Dylan Ward was red carded for his challenge on Karl McKaigue.

Christopher Bradley’s free levelled the score but despite being outnumbered Kilcoo robustly edged ahead with Paul Devlin converting a free and Ceilum Doherty tagging on a point following Eugene Branagan’s clever rob and pass.

Shane McGuigan’s free edged the Derry champions closer at the first quarter but Paul Devlin struck an inspierational long-range effort between the posts to keep Kilcoo ahead.

Slaughtneil’s Padraig Casey stuck from distance for a point that looked wide and Shane McGuigan’s converted free had the sides level (0-04 to 0-04) with 21 minutes gone.

The Derry champions lost McNeill to his red card but still finished the half strongly with three unanswered points from Brendan Rodgers, Christopher Bradley (free) and Cormac O’Doherty to lead 0-07 to 0-04 at the break.

Kilcoo were restricted to only two points from play (Martin Devlin and JJ McLoughlin) during the second period but the steady free-taking by captain Darragh O’Hanlon and Paul Devlin kept the Down men in the contest.

Rodgers’ goal widened the gap and Kilcoo’s chances of a comeback were rocked when Eugene Branagan became the third player red carded.

Shane McGuigan, Se McGuigan and Meehaul McGrath kept the Slaughtneil scoreboard ticking over as they awaited the late Magpies assault. O’Hanlon and McLoughlin had late chances cleared off the line but the Derry men had done enough to book a quarter-final showdown with the Tyrone champions.

Scorers - Kilcoo: P Devlin (0-05, 0-02 free, 0-01 45’), D O’Hanlon (0-04 -0-04 frees), C Doherty (0-1), JJ McLoughlin (0-01). Slaughtneil: Shane McGuigan (0-04, 0-04 frees), P Bradley (1-00), C Bradley (0-02, 0-02 frees), C O’Doherty (0-01), M McGrath (0-01), P Cassidy (0-1), Se McGuigan (0-1), B Rogers (0-1).

Kilcoo: S Kane, N Branagan, D O’Hanlon, N McEvoy, E Branagan, Aidan Branagan, D Branagan, F McGreevy, A Morgan, D Ward, P Devlin, Conor Laverty, J Johnston, C Doherty, J McClean.

Subs: M Devlin for McEvoy (30’), JJ McLoughlin for McGreevy (41’), D Kane for Johnston (55’),

Slaughtneil: A McMullan, P McNeill, B Rodgers, K McKaigue, F McEldowney, C McKaigue, K Feeney, P Bradley, P Casey, Shane McGuigan, R Bradley, M McGrath, C O’Doherty, Se McGuigan, C Bradley.

Subs: B Cassidy for Bradley (50’), G Bradley for McGrath (54’), C McAllister for R Bradley (black card, 60’).

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh).