Late Coulter strike sends Down into Ulster semis

Late Coulter strike sends Down into Ulster semis

3 June 2020

After a number of years in the doldrums Down’s footballing fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 2010 when they reached the All-Ireland final. The journey to Croke Park began against Donegal


Donegal 2-10

Down 1-15



BENNY Coulter popped up late in extra-time to send Down soaring through to the semi-finals of the Ulster SFC with a magical goal to break Donegal’s hearts in Ballybofey on Sunday.

Coulter, the undoubted man of the match, struck gold when he got on the end of a sweeping move involving Danny Hughes and Martin Clarke to secure a clash with Tyrone.

Both sides started tentatively and Down midfielder Kalum King was yellow carded after five minutes, but Donegal’s Dermot Molloy escaped punishment after he clashed with Damian Rafferty.

Molloy opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a point from play before both Mark Poland and John Clarke registered wides for Down.

Donegal then hit Down for six when Molloy took advantage of some poor defensive play and lashed the ball past a helpless Brendan McVeigh.

Down were up against it, but their nerves were settled when Coulter and Clarke pointed to leave Donegal with a 1-1 to 0-2 lead after 15 minutes.

Poland converted a free to leave a point in it, but Donegal must have thought Christmas had come early when they bagged a second goal when Molloy’s shot came off the upright and Conal Dunne was on hand to steer the ball into the net in the 18th minute.

Martin Clarke answered Down’s call with a point and this was followed up by a similar score from Hughes as Down trailed 2-1 to 0-5 after 23 minutes.

Coulter had a good effort well saved by Paul Durcan before Molloy extended Donegal’s lead with a long range free. With 33 minutes gone Poland pointed for Down, but the impressive Molloy negated this score with a point for Donegal.

The half closed with Hughes pointing for Down in the second minute of stoppage time with just two points between the sides at the break.

Donegal opened the scoring in the second half when Michael Murphy converted a free, but Poland replied for Down with another converted free.

Adrian Hanlon, who had replaced Christy Toye, tagged on a point for Donegal to give his side a 2-5 to 0-8 lead with 20 minutes left, but Hughes reduced the arrears with a superb point for Down.

Marty Clarke left a point in it with a lovely score and Coulter fired over the equalising point in the 59th minute after good foraging by Benny McArdle.

David Walsh fisted Donegal back ahead, but Durcan saved Donegal’s bacon at the other end when he twice denied Dan Gordon, who was now operating at full forward.

Coulter, who had moved out the field, then fired over the score of the game to bring the sides level with only two minutes remaining and Marty Clarke lofted Down ahead for the first time in the game with only seconds remaining.

Donegal had Rory Kavanagh to thank for sending the game to extra time when he pointed with the last kick of the game to make it 2-7 to 013.

Coulter scored the first point in extra time and this was followed up by a score from Hughes as Down started to dictate matters.

The first period of added time ended with Down two points ahead, 0-15 to 2-7.

Mark McHugh reduced the arrears within seconds of the restart Colm McFadden brought the sides level at 2-9 to 0-15.

The game was there for the taking and Coulter was perfectly placed to accept Marty Clarke’s pass before firing to the net in a dramatic late twist.

Eoin Wade replied with an instant Donegal point, but Down held out for an epic victory.

Down: B. McVeigh, B. McArdle, D. Rooney, D. Rafferty, K. McKernan, J.Colgan, C. Garvey, D. Gordon, K. King, D. Hughes (0-4), M. Poland (0-3), P. McComiskey, B. Coulter (1-4), J. Clarke (0-1), M. Clarke (0-3). Subs: C. Maginn for J. Clarke, P. Fitzpatrick for McComiskey, D. O’Hagan for McKernan, S. Kearney for Poland, C. Laverty forPoland, R. Murtagh for Garvey.

Donegal: P. Durcan, F. McGlynn, N. McGee, K. Lacey, M. Maguire, K. Cassidy, B. Dunnion, B. Monaghan, N. Gallagher, R. Kavanagh (0-1), C. Toye, D. Walsh (01), D. Molloy (1-3), M. Murphy (0-1), C. Dunne (1-0). Subs: A. Hanlon (0-1) for Toye, A. Thompson for Monaghan, M. McHugh (0-1) for Gallagher, C. McFadden (0-1) for D. Molloy, E. Wade (0-1) for Maguire.