Down thirds opened their Junior 7 account with a well deserved home win against South Antrim at a rain-soaked Malone Park last weekend.

Trevor Lennon's side were in contention for the title at one stage last season, but with derby rivals Saintfield seconds having already made it to Junior 6, Down thirds are hoping to follow suit.

They used the opening game of the season to blood a number of new young players, including Mark Graham and Jordan Wade, who made impressive debuts alongside the experienced Willie Price, James Cunningham, Philip Brown and goalkeeper, David Moreland.

South Antrim travelled to Downpatrick with a strong squad of 16 players, while Down were able to field a team containing a mix of youth and experience.

The visitors, who are also keen to secure one of the two promotion berths up for grabs, started well on the shale surface and even had the temerity to take the lead when a forward was allowed too much time inside the penalty area to pick his spot past Moreland.

But the home side rallied and scored an equaliser before the interval through Cunningham. He raced into the penalty area and was close to the bye-line when he looked up to pick out a forward with a telling pass. But instead of finding a team mate with a pinpoint cross, Cunningham fooled everyone by somehow managing to squeeze the ball past the 'keeper into the net.

Young Wade was energetic with Brian Hagan also making a return on the wing for Down, always looking to get forward when the opportunity arose. The home side was keen to press home its advantage in the second period, but heavier rain made it difficult for both sets of players. To their credit, they battled on.

The home side's efforts were finally rewarded when Wade scored what proved to be the winner and while South Antrim tried in vain to grab an equaliser, Moreland and the defenders ahead of him kept the visiting forwards at bay.

A great start to the season for the thirds. If they can keep a settled side and make the most of playing teams at home, they could be in with a real shout of promotion.