Young Bangor side claim Champions of Down title after late goal flurry

Champions of Down Final

Bangor FC Under 18s 5    

Portaferry Rovers   1

Dennis S Nash reports from Davidson Park


AS LAST Saturday’s Champions of Down Final edged into the last quarter-of-an-hour, no clear verdict had been arrived at.

The young Bangor team led 2-1, but the seasoned Portaferry side were still very much in the frame.

The final 15 minutes yielded a three-goal blast for the side from Clandeboye Road and a brilliant save from the penalty spot by goalkeeper Ben McConkey confirmed that this year’s trophy was on its way to a city resting place.

Carter Maxwell got the final underway with the Ballywalter touchlines well filled for the big game in the sunshine. Both teams made token attacks in the early exchanges, with Ryan Convery crossing well from the left flank for the peninsula side and Sam Millar sending a free-kick whistling near the target for the young Bangor outfit.

Portaferry just shaded the attacking picture over the opening phase with Morgan Smyth sending a shot from range very close to Andrew Sands’ goal.

It was Bangor who got their noses in front after 10 minutes through Scott McAdam, but Sean Mageean went close with an effort at the other end to demonstrate that a single goal was unlikely to secure the bragging rights in this one.

Portaferry did have a brighter look in their attacking play and a free-kick from distance from captain Convery dropped just over the Bangor crossbar.
Bangor ’keeper Ben McConkey, who made the decisive save in the semi-final shootout, was certainly becoming the busier custodian and a speculative drive from Callum Milligan clipped the upright.

Rovers carried a more convincing look about attack at this juncture and, on 38 minutes, the scoreline was back to level pegging at 1-1.

The team from the bottom extremity of the Ards Peninsula were gaining an increased foothold on proceedings and as referee Mark McCurdy signalled the end of the opening 45 minutes, it was Portaferry who looked to have found their groove.

Portaferry, who defeated Groomsport 5-1 in the second semi-final just two days previous, began the second 45 minutes with Callum Milligan and Ryan Convery both in attacking mode, but Jack McCosh and Scott McAdam both defended well with style and a flourish of flair.

On the hour mark it was Bangor who again forged ahead on the scorecard when Sam Millar, cutting through from the left, pushed the City side in front at 2-1.

With only 15 minutes left, Millar scored his and Bangor’s second to increase their goal cushion to two. Eleven minutes later, a penalty award to Portaferry did push forward the vague thought of a very late comeback, but McConkey was down to his right to deliver the save.

A pair of Carter Maxwell strikes would then remove any doubt as the trophy was left in the hands of the Bangor boys.


Down-the-Side Facts

Number of words here – 500


Bangor FC Under 18s: Ben McConkey, Alfie Clulow (C), Joshua Colville, Jack McCosh, Daniel Hannan, David McConnell, Jay McAllister, Caden McKee , Carter Maxwell, Scott McAdam, Sam Millar.

Substitutes: Scott Fitzpatrick, Morgan McGimpsey, Lewis Watson, Thomas Wiles.


Portaferry Rovers FC: Andrew Sands, Corey Smyth, Caolan Dorrian, Oliver Mason, Garrett Curran, Sean Mageean, Callum Milligan, Pearse Moreland, Morgan Smyth, Ryan Convery (C), Eoghan Doran.

Substitutes: Conal Sims, Oisin Dorrian, Bobby Curran.



Bangor FC Under 18s

As far back as July 2015, the senior club at Bangor was engaged in the promotion and encouragement of age-related players and they have continued to promote and support youth football.

The parent club itself was founded in 1918 and plays home matches at Clandeboye Park.

Club colours are gold and royal blue.


Portaferry Rovers FC

Portaferry Rovers Football Club was founded in 1974, although the game was first played at a competitive level in the village back in 1911 when the Lower Ards summer competition was first formed.

Rovers currently play in Division 1B of the Northern Amateur Football League, based at the Cloughey Road.

The club colours are orange and black.



The Champions of Down competition first emerged in August 1983 in Greyabbey under the direction of Hugh Shields.

The tournament was played on an annual basis with the third occasion in 1985 when Ballywalter claimed the trophy with a 3-1 victory over Bangor Swifts.

Archie Walls entered the record books at that time by the fact that he was the only player to have played in all three finals.

The competition didn’t appear in 1986 and indeed 28 years elapsed before Ballywalter Rec stepped forward to announce that they intended to resurrect the idea in 2014.

The reappearance of the tournament proved to be highly successful – and it was Rosemount Rec (the original instigators of the competition) who ended up as champions – with Hugh Shields still undertaking the main duties of chief organiser.

The Champions of Down missed out the annual sequence when Covid raised its head but the tournament has once more re-established itself in the local sporting calendar.

Thomas McConnell has moved onto the organisational scene as Hugh begins to take a step back, but next year’s competition is already on the agenda with the possibility of a change in moving to an August setting to introduce the 2025-2026 campaign.



The official Chronicle photographer at Davidson Park for the game was Jimmy Graham.



I am again deeply indebted to members of the Ballywalter club for assistance with parking, the gathering of details and the appearance of so many helping hands when assistance was so much needed.



Hugh Shields – a referee of long-standing himself – always operates with a full panel of three match officials and most certainly the application of Mark McCurdy, Paul Costello and Alan Long, along with Graham McIlwrath,  gave a true edge of officialdom to the occasion.