New York 1-10, Down 3-14
New York hurlers got their first taste of Championship action on Saturday evening at Casement Park in Antrim when they faced a fancied Down outfit in the quarterfinal of the Ulster hurling Championship.
The New York side were back boned by the reigning champions Tipperary and had high hopes of reaching the semifinals. Down, however, were the better team and totally dominated the flat footed visitors in the opening period to lead by 2-10 to 0-2 at the interval.
Down were first off the mark and their free-flowing end-to-end hurling left the exiles reeling in their boots. The jet lag seemed to effect a number of the top players on the New York team and their general lack of energy and alertness early on was to prove costly as the game wore on. Down now go on to play Derry on Sunday next in the semi-final of the Ulster championship but they will have to improve in several sectors if they are to trouble the Derrymen.
New York, to their credit, played some excellent hurling at the start of the second half, but it arrived much too late and even when they closed the gap to five points and some fifteen minutes still to play they never looked like troubling their opponents.
Down opened the scoring in the first minute with former all-star Gerard McGrattan hitting some fine points from play. He was well aided up front by the very accurate Paul Braniff and Gary Gordon, who both did a mountain of work along the right wing.
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New York were caught napping in the full back line for the entire first half and if it wasn’t for some heroic saves by their custodian Finbar Flood the gap would have been even greater at the interval. The Big Apple side were belt two savage blows on the stroke of halftime, first when man of the match, Gerard McGrattan, ran through the defense to fire a pile-driver to the roof of the New York net and again two minutes into injury time when Down stalwart Noel Sands rattled the net for goal No. 2 and the New York defense all at sea not for the first time in the half.
The city side retired to the dressing rooms facing a mammoth task on the resuming with Down leading by 2-10 to 0-2. Aided by a slight breeze, New York powered out of the blocks at the start of the second half and played with a renewed spirit and determination. The troublesome full back position was now manned by John Riordan and his physique and alertness steadied the entire defense. John Kennedy began to play some good hurling around the middle and McCabe and Cummins were on target up front for the first time.
When New York full-forward Kevin Kennedy pocked the sliotar past the Down goalie, the city side were in top gear. Further points from Simms, Doherty and Ryan brought New York within five points and still plenty of time to play.
The Mourne men, however, rallied, and with Paul Braniff hitting massive points from frees as well as another goal from Gary Savage, the game was over as a contest. It was bitter disappointment for the exiles who tried so hard in the second half to close the gap.
New York Team: F. Flood, J. Lyons, P. Dalton, P. Wickham, D. Ryan 0-2, J. Madden, S. Pender, T. Simms, J. Kennedy 0-1, D. Doherty 0-1, B. McCabe 0-1, S. Nolan, D. Simms, K.
Kennedy 1-2, O. Cummins 0-2. Subs: B. Adams, J. Riordan, T. Callaghan, T. Maher.
Down: G. Clarke, M. Mallon, K. Coulter, J. Caughey, S. Murray, P. Coulter, M. Pucci, P. Monan, G. Gordon 0-1, B. Braniff 0-4, G. Savage 1-1, G. McGrattan 1-0, J. McGrattan, P. Braniff 0-6, N. Sands 1-1. Subs: D. Byers, B. Smith, P. Mallon.