Down pay a hefty price for leisurely start against Wicklow
Wicklow led throughout as they smashed Christy Ring Cup champions Down hopes of promotion, by picking up Division 2B Allianz Hurling League honours in Navan on Saturday.
Mikey Lee fired 10 points for the Garden County, as they picked up their first piece of league silverware at any level since 2010.
Wicklow were 0-4 to 0-0 ahead after just three minutes, and led by 0-12 to 0-9 at half-time, with Johnny McCusker, Conor Woods, Connor O'Prey, Sean Ennis and Conor O'Neill aiding a Down comeback.
Wicklow moved six points clear early on the restart, but Down cut the gap to a point, with Daniel Toner and Jonathan McCusker adding points, before substitute Scott Nicholson netted.
The Ballycran clubman netted after good work by Donal Hughes and McCusker in the build-up, but crucially the Mourne County couldn't get in front.
Lee ensured a 0-19 to 1-12 lead, with his eighth point in the 47th minute, and although McCusker cut the gap once more, Wicklow continued to remain on top.
Jonathan O'Neill ensured all six starting forwards were on target as he added Wicklow's 20th point, before a third from Staunton opened a five-point lead the final quarter arrived.
Down never gave up and claimed three of the next four points, with Woods and McCusker on target.
This left the gap at three points entering the closing nine minutes, but suddenly frustration kicked in for Down.
Manager Gerard Monan was disappointed with his sides display, in a game which saw the Mourne County reduced to 14 men in the final quarter, following the dismissal of Fintan Conway.
"All of the league we have started well in all of the matches, but today was the first day we didn't start well," he commented.
"I suppose you would have to say that anything Wicklow hit went over the bar. Their shooting was phenomenal."
Wicklow also finished the game with 14 men after a straight red card for Christy Moorehouse late on, but they held out for victory.
WICKLOW: T Kennedy; E Dunne, S Kelly, B Cuddihy; G Byrne, L Kennedy, S Byrne; J Henderson, R Keddy; C Moorehouse (0-2), D Staunton (0-3), J O'Neill (0-1); M Lee (0-10, 8f), W O'Gorman (0-4), A O'Brien (0-3). Subs: J Bermingham for Cuddihy (50); TJ Hennessy for Keddy (71).
DOWN: S Keith; M Conlan, P Flynn, M Hughes; B Nicholson, C Woods (0-4, 2f 1 '65), P Hughes; S Ennis (0-1), F Conway; D Hughes, S Dineen, C O'Neill; C O'Prey, J McCusker (0-6, 6f), D Toner (0-2). Subs: R Brannigan for P Hughes (HT); S Nicholson (1-1) for Dineen (41); M Turley for O'Neill (50); C Taggart for M Hughes (Blood 59-60); P Sheehan for O'Prey (61); E Clarke for M Hughes (67).
Referee: John Keane (Galway).