Down swept aside by Dublin's power
Dublin 1-15 Down 0-09
Down's defeat to Dublin on Saturday night at Croke Park all but confirms that they will be playing football in Division Two of the National League next year.
Although not mathematically impossible, Down need to record a handsome victory at home to Kildare in less than a fortnight's time while hoping that two of the three teams directly above them in the table lose by huge margins if they are to muster an unlikely escape.
The reality is that relegation looms large on the Mourne horizon and their boss James McCartan.
Down's loss to Dublin owas symptomatic of their entire season to date – a blistering start to a game that ultimately finished with a whimper. The fact that the Leinster team were able to win with such ease without their top-scorer Bernard Brogan merely underlined the chasm in class between the two sides.
It proved to be a night to forget for Down and so keen were they to move on from the defeat, that the team bus left Croke Park mere minutes after the final whistle had blown saving them from conducting the customary post-mortem with the media.
Down only registered two points in the entire second half while Dublin scored 1-10 during the same period. Dublin are now assured of their place in the semi-finals while Down look set to be relegated with only a home game left to play against Kildare.
Down may have ended the game in disarray but they began it brightly as Mark Poland and Benny McArdle handed them an early advantage. Paul Mannion reduced the arrears but three points on the trot from Poland, Donal O'Hare and Kevin McKernan put Down into a commanding 0-5 to 0-1 lead.
That was about as good as it got for Down as the momentum had notably shifted and an intricate move involving Macauley and Kevin McManamon was finished adroitly by Cian O'Sullivan.
Paul McComiskey scored a superb individual point on the break for Down but a score from Nicky Devereux allowed Dublin to close the gap to two points.
It stayed that way until half-time and Down led 0-7 to 0-5.
Down have consistently experienced barren spells in the majority of their games in the league this year. It proved to be the case again on Saturday night. Dublin scored through Diarmuid Connolly after the re-start and although Donal O'Hare converted a free soon afterwards, Down would not score again for another 26 minutes.
By the time the umpires raised the flag for Down's ninth and final point, the game was well and truly over as a contest and had been for some time.
Dublin then got their noses in front when Stephen Cluxton converted a 45 and from then on, there was no looking back for the home side.
Dublin bombarded the Down goal and a defence that has seen much improvement in since the turn of the year began to look porous.
Kevin McManamon fired a point over from play and on 50 minutes his surging run in the heart of the Down defence presented him with a chance that he duly dispatched into the roof of the net.
The Dubs then picked Down off at will and scores from Paul Mannion, Diarmuid Connolly and Paddy Andrews ensured that the final few minutes were extremely comfortable of the Dubs.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton (0-1, 45); D Daly, J Cooper, K O'Brien; J McCaffrey, G Brennan, N Devereux (0-1); C O'Sullivan (0-1), D Bastick; C Dias, P Andrews (0-2, 1f), B Cullen (0-1); K McManamon (1-1), D Connolly (0-4, 3f), P Mannion (0-4, 3f); (Subs) M D Macauley for D Bastick (23 mins) S Carthy for C Dias (45), Chris Guckian for D Daly (51), P Ryan for D Connolly (60), K Nolan for J McCaffrey (65)
DOWN: B McVeigh; D O'Hagan, B McArdle (0-1), R Boyle; D Turley, P McComiskey (0-1); D Rooney; K McKernan (0-1), P Turley; K Quinn, M Poland (0-2, 1f), C Laverty; D O'Hare (0-3, 2f), A McConville, B Coulter; (Subs) C Harrison for A McConville (30 mins), D McKibben for D Turley (49), K King for D Rooney (52), D Savage (0-1) for M Poland (55), R Kelly for D O'Hare (59)
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford).