Down seconds' bid to lift the Ulster Junior Shield ended in disappointment at Stormont last Saturday.

The locals were defeated in a game they struggled to take a firm grip on and the margin of defeat could have been even heavier had it not been for an outstanding second half performance by goalkeeper, Mark Johnston.

He produced a string of excellent stops in the latter part of the second half as Cookstown exploited the space left at the back as Down pushed forward in a bid to salvage something from the game.

Johnston proved a formidable barrier as shots were pinged at him from all angles and his agility was tested to the full during a particularly frenetic 10-minute spell.

Down did tremendously well to reach the final stages of a competition they have won twice in the past 10 years. Cookstown, who play in a league above the Malone Park outfit, have now won the Junior Shield for three years on the trot.

The locals scored two late goals, but if they had not given the ball away on two occasions in the middle of the park, which led to Cookstown scoring two of their three second half goals, things may well have been different.

Forwards Mark Elliott and Ashley Gibson were starved of possession and were forced to drop deep to get involved in the action as the Down midfield was very much up against it.

Down started brightly with skipper Johnny Lennon sending Paul Neill scampering away along the Cookstown right, but his cross failed to pick out either Elliott or Gibson. Elliott and Neill then combined cleverly on the left wing and when the ball was fired towards Gibson, a Cookstown defender stepped in to clear the danger.

The first short corner of the game was awarded to Cookstown, but Allen's powerful shot was deflected over the bar by Lennon. Three minutes later at the other end, Gibson had a "goal" disallowed for an infringement on the edge of the penalty area.

Johnston was forced to make two kicked clearances before skipper Lennon produced a timely tackle to prevent a Cookstown forward firing gaolwards.

Down were awarded their first short corner in the 23rd minute when Gibson's shot was saved by Sommerville. One minute later, Greg Allen fired the holders into the lead, but Down could have responded immediately if Elliott had been able to convert a gilt-edged chance, but the ball got caught up under his feet.

Johnston then produced another block to keep his side in the game to ensure they were still just a goal in arrears at the interval.

The second half was just two minutes old when Colin Gibson set up a chance for his brother Ashley whose shot was again saved by the alert Sommerville. James Erskine and Willie Price combined to clear a sweeping Cookstown attack before the holders went 2-0 ahead when Allen scored again in the 47th minute.

Four minutes later they went 3-0 ahead when Paul Thompson was given too much room inside the penalty area. Johnston then produced the first of a series of fine saves and Ashley Gibson pulled one goal back for his side when he scored at the second attempt in the 60th minute. And just when it looked the locals were going to up the tempo, Cookstown scored after Down needlessly gave the ball away and Johnston could do nothing to prevent Stephen Allen scoring.

But back came Down when Gibson scored his second of the afternoon after a great run and pass by Erskine, but it was too little too late. The missed chances earlier in the game had proved costly, but Down deserve great credit for the way they played to reach the final.

They were the sole remaining Junior 4 side left in the competition and skipper Lennon can be proud of his players for their efforts over the season. They have been a credit to the club and congratulations to them all for reaching the final.