Downings’ bid for a place in a first Ulster final was well and truly dashed by Monaghan champions, Blackhill in yesterday’s semi-final in Owenbeg.
Blackhill ............... 0-13
Downings ............ 0-6
The Donegal side’s only complaint afterwards was that they felt they did not do themselves justice, on the big stage and when the chance for a place in a first provincial final presented itself.
In truth, they were well beaten by the Monaghan champions who won their first Monaghan championship, in 64 years, at the fourth attempt at the end of last month.
Downings were forced to start without the injured Eric Roberts, scorer of two points in their 1-9 to 0-10 quarter-final win over Derry champions, Magilligan.
And they also lost captain and top scorer Colin Gallagher and midfielder Shaun McGinley to injury in the middle of the second quarter.
And if that was not bad enough, they also lost their second midfielder Shaun McBride, when he pulled up with injury, 13 minutes from the end.
Heavy pitch didn't help
The fact that a hurling semi-final was played at Owenbeg beforehand meant that the playing surface cut up badly and the going was heavy.
This most definitely did not suit the lighter Downings men.
Blackhill had a number of nippy and light forwards too. But they also had power and strength in key areas especially in the midfield duo of Courtney and Daly, and in fullback Donal Courtney and full forward and team captain Darren Woods.
Aaron McClafferty and Gary ‘Ban’ McClafferty replaced Ben McBride and Eric Roberts from the team that defeated Magilligan last time out.
Blackhill started well and laid down an early marker as they hit four points to Downings one, in the opening eight minutes.
Wing back Tommy McGeehan got forward to kick the first of his two first half points, inside 43 seconds.
And while Colin Gallagher tied up the game shortly after, the Blackhill machine was up and running.
Three point lead
Colin Woods, Michael McGeehan and Philip Donnelly all pointed from play to open up a three point lead.
Michael McGeehan also missed a glorious opportunity for a goal when he blasted wide from two metres.
The angle may have been tight but it went down as a bad miss and a let off for the Donegal champions.
Downings seemed to take note of the goal scare and they responded with two quick fire points from Lorcan Connor, one from a free and the other from play, to haul Downings back to within a point, with 13 minutes on the clock to leave the score 0-4 to 0-3.
Connor was a marked man and was marshalled by two defenders on any occasion he won possession.
Blackhill were strong in midfield where Anthony Courtney and Dermot Daly dominated for most of the half.
And they provided the platform for the late charge at the end of the first half that yielded five unanswered points for a 0-9 to 0-6, Blackhill, halftime lead.
But for a timely save on the line from Allen Pasoma, in the closing seconds off the half it could have been worse for the Donegal flag bearers.
Passona got back just in time to deny the Monaghan men. Darren Woods fisted effort would not have counted if it had gone straight to the net. But with his brother Colin lurking for the flick on Pasoma did well and it was a definite goal save.
Downings did make a bid for it in the second half. Oisin Boyce moved out around the middle of the park and broke the dominance of Courtney and Daly.
And they outscored the Monaghan men by two points to one in the opening seven minutes of the second half, courtesy of two close in Connor frees.
And they twice reduced the margin to five points, but they could not get the vital goal they needed.
Jamie Lee McBride had a half chance for a goal late on but his fly kick, after a good run from Finian McClafferty, was easily saved by Michael Shevlin, the Blackhill keeper.
Gary Ban McClafferty, posted Downings’ last point of the game before Daly converted two late close in frees.
DOWNINGS: Conor McBride; Max Davis, Shay Coyle, Aaron McClafferty; Bryan McGinley, Kevin McGee, Kevin Doherty; Shaun McBride, Shaun McGinley; Allen Pasoma, Colin Gallagher (0-1), Colin Boyce; Jamie Lee McBride, Gary ‘Ban’ McCafferty (0-1,1f), Lorcan Connor (0-4,3f). Subs: Finian McClafferty for C Gallagher, inj, Ben McBride for S McGinley, both, 24; Seamus Gallagher for A McClafferty, h/t;Hugo Davis for Ben McBride, black, 44; Shane Boyce for A Pasoma, black, 46; Shane McClafferty for S McBride, 50.
BLACKHILL: Michael Shevlin; Aaron Kenny, Donal Courtney, Thomas Courtney; Tommy McGeehan (0-2), Ryan Courtney,James Daly; Anthony Courtney (0-1), Dermot Daly; Hugh Byrne, Philip Donnelly (0-4,3f), Ciaran Courtney; Michael McGeehan (0-2,1f), Darren Woods, Colin Woods. Subs; Andrew Burns for T Courtney, 14, black; Eamon Burns for D Woods, 51;
REFEREE: Sean Lafferty (Antrim).