DERRY cruised into their first Ulster SHC final in eight years with a comprehensive 0-24 to 0-13 victory over Down at Casement Park.
Derry got off to a flying start and hit seven points without reply in the opening 15 minutes, but Down fought back strongly and only four fantastic saves from Darrell McDermott preserved Derry’s comfortable half-time position.
The missed chances proved costly for Gerard Monan’s Down side, who never got into it after the break and finished the game with 13 men after Fintan Conway and Ben Toner were sent off in the final ten minutes.
Chief marksman Ruairi Convery continued to cause serious trouble for the Down defence and finished with nine points to his name. His side will now face Antrim in next Sunday’s decider, back at Casement Park.
Derry hit the ground running in today’s semi-final with Kevin Hinphey and Ruairi Convery landing two apiece in that early blitz.
Convery was proving a real handful at full-forward for the Oak Leafers, and Oisin McCloskey, Paddy Henry and Paddy Kelly also hit the target as Ger Rogan’s charges raced into a healthy lead.
But Down began to fight back in the second quarter as the game became a personal duel between Paul Braniff and Darrell McDermott.
Four times in fifteen minutes Derry goalkeeper McDermott kept Down at bay from point blank range, three of his incredible saves denying Braniff.
It was still Braniff leading the charge for the Mourne men though, hitting four points before the break, while Paul Keith chipped in with three after moving from midfield to the half-forward line in an early reshuffle.
Convery continued to win a lot of ball for Derry at full-forward and with Alan Grant excellent at wing forward, the Oak Leafers led by 0-13 to 0-07 at the interval.
Down never closed the gap to less than five as Convery continued to terrorise them, finishing with six from play, leading a Derry scoresheet that carried nine different names.
Down offered little outside of Braniff’s contribution and lost their discipline in the final quarter, with Conway earning a second booking and then Toner picked up his second yellow right on the final whistle.
DERRY: D McDermott; S McCullagh, C Quinn (0-01), M Warnock; R McCloskey, L Hinphey, C McSorley; O McCloskey (0-02), K Hinphey (0-02); P Henry (0-03, 0-01f), P McCloskey (0-01), A Grant (0-04); P Kelly (0-01), R Convery (0-09, 0-03f), S Farren.
Subs used: S McGuigan for P Henry, L Craig (0-01) for S Farren (both 51 mins), C Gilmore for C Quinn (61), B Quigley for P McCloskey (66), J McCloskey for L Hinphey (67).
DOWN: G Clarke; J Smyth, M Hughes, S Ennis; B Toner, C Woods, F Conway; A Savage, P Keith (0-02); D Hobbs, M Ennis, E Clarke; Aaron O’Prey, P Braniff (0-07, 0-03f, 0-01 ‘65’), M Turley (0-01).
Subs used: C Mageean for Hobbs (41 mins), S Nicholson (0-02) for O’Prey, P Sheehan (0-01) for A Savage (both 52).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)