Conor Laverty leads the way as Down find it easy
Down 4-18 Leitrim 0-09: Down cantered into the second round of the All-Ireland Qualifiers with a one-sided victory over Leitrim yesterday in Pairc Esler.
There was no danger of Down slipping up against their Division Four opponents as the Mourne men enjoyed a commanding lead at the break.
As expected Down manager James McCartan used the game as a useful exercise to give a number of fringe players some game-time.
Warrenpoint's Ciaran McCartan was rewarded for his impressive performance in the Down Senior Club Championship with his first competitive debut.
Darren O'Hagan made his much awaited return from injury and Niall Donnelly was another making his championship debut, lining out at full-back.
Leitrim opened the scoring with a converted free from captain Emyln Mulligan in the opening minute but Down eased themselves into the contest with points from Conor Laverty, Dan Gordon, and Donal O'Hare.
Mulligan replied with a converted free before Laverty grabbed his second point but Down made the breakthrough they wanted on 10 minutes with a scrappy goal from Laverty.
Benny Coulter sent a neatly measured cross-field pass to O'Hare but his attempted fisted point struck the post and the quick thinking Laverty pounced before his instant deflected shot hit the net.
Mark Poland played in a wide position and displayed great burst of pace and accuracy to tag on a point.
O'Hare stretched Down's lead with their first converted free of the game on 19 minutes before Niall Madine's goal put the contest beyond doubt.
Leitrim's Kevin Conlon dropped Gordon's miss-kick allowing Coulter to snap up possession and pass to Madine who drilled home from close range.
Conor Maginn added to Down's tally with a point but Leitrim were denied a certain goal when keeper Michael Cunningham pulled off a tremendous save from Rob Lowe's close-range flick on.
Coulter and Cunningham chipped in with scores while Sean McSweeney tapped over Leitrim's fourth point to make it 2-10 0-04 in Down's favour at the break.
On the resumption, Down continued to dominate, with the inspirational Laverty giving a shooting masterclass, including his second goal.
The match continued to be little more than shooting practice for Down, with substitute Damien Turley grabbing the highlight with Down's fourth goal.
Leitrim managed to increase their score with points from Gary Reynolds, Robert Lowe and Mulligan and though they didn't lie down, it was all too easy for the Mourne men with substitute Liam Doyle, Kevin McKernan, Poland and Coulter all finding the target.
Oddly referee Anthony Nolan didn't need to produce any cards yet both teams finished the game with 14 men as Down's Liam Doyle and Leitrim's Darren Sweeney limped off after the full quota of substitutes was completed.
DOWN: Michael Cunningham (0-1, 45'), Dan Gordon, Niall Donnelly, Darren O'Hagan, Conor Garvey, Ciaran McCartan, Kevin McKernan (0-1), Dan Gordan (0-1), Peter Turley, Benny Coulter (0-2), Conor Maginn (0-1), Mark Poland (0-2), Donal O'Hare (0-4, 3 frees), Niall Madine (1-0) and Conor Laverty (2-4). Subs: L Doyle (0-2, frees) for O'Hare 41mins, C Toner for Turley 44mins, E McCartan for Madine 48mins D Turley (1-0) for Coulter 51mins, O Costello for D McCartan.
LEITRIM: Philip Farrelly, Alan Wynne, Donal Wrynn, Barry McWeeney, Barry Prior, Gary Reynolds (0-1), Sean McWeeney, Darren Sweeney, Damian Moran, Gerry Hickey, Emyln Mulligan (0-5, 4 frees), Alan McLoughlin, Kevin Conlon, Robert Lowe (0-1) and Ray Fox. Subs: F Clancy for McLoughlin h-t, M McWeeney for Moran 48mins, G Reynolds for Wynn 52mins, N Moore (0-1) for Lowe 57mins, C Clinton for Cox 59mins and A Hickey for G Hickey 65mins.
Referee: Anthony Nolan
All-action clash fails to produce a winner
A total of 72 points were shared between Down and Derry in a dramatic Ulster Senior Hurling Championship semi-final at Clones yesterday – but neither was able to book their place in the decider.
Even a period of additional extra-time failed to separate the sides, who had initially finished level on 3-23 to 4-20 after 90 minutes-plus.
Indeed, there had been nothing between them at half-time (1-9 to 2-6) and full-time (3-16 to 4-13) and, when the stalemate remained after both sides had agreed to contest a further passage of play, it was perhaps fitting that no loser was declared, with a replay now set to be arranged.
In yesterday's Ulster MHC semi-finals, meanwhile, Antrim defeated Down by 1-15 to 0-10, while Stephen O'Kane's Derry edged out Armagh on a 3-11 to 2-11 scoreline.