Four unanswered points in second-half injury time secured Down their third win of the campaign at Cusack Park, Mullingar yesterday, thus leaving already-relegated Westmeath pointless.
Westmeath had interim manager Brian Hanley in charge for the first time and with dual star Brendan Murtagh in terrific form, the home side were full value for their six-point lead at the break (2-8 to 1-5). Murtagh scored both goals for Westmeath from frees, while Paul Braniff netted a penalty for Down.
Down responded and Scott Nicholson teed up Gareth Johnson for a goal on the retart. In the 46th minute, though, Murtagh completed his hat-trick when he rifled a low shot past Karol Keating. Down again rallied and late Johnson and Donal Hughes goals hauled them back. However, Murtagh -- now at full-back -- came forward to put Westmeath two points to the good.
the Mournemen were not finished yet, though, and points from Johnson (free), Stephen Clarke and the outstanding Brendan Ennis (two), sealed victory.
Man of the match: B Murtagh (Westmeath)
SCORERS -- Down: P Braniff 1-5 (1-0 pen, 5f), G Johnson 2-1 (1f), B Ennis 0-5, D Hughes 1-0, K McGarry, S Clarke and S Nicholson 0-1 each. Westmeath: B Murtagh 3-9 (2-5f), E Price, C Curley 0-2 each, R Whelan, A Devine 0-1 each.
Down -- K Keating 7; M Hughes 6, C Coulter 6, S Ennis 6; C O'Prey 6, J Merron 5, M Ennis 6; A Savage 6, K McGarry 7; B Ennis 8, S Clarke 6, J Coyle 5; S Nicholson 6, P Braniff 7, G Johnson 8. Subs: C Mageean 6 for Coyle (47), D Hughes 7 for Braniff (56), A Clarke 6 for Nicholson (60), A O'Prey for Coulter (67).
Westmeath -- C Scally 7; C Flanagan 6, D McCormack 6, A McGrath 7; E Price 7, A Mitchell 6, P Gilsenan 5; J Gilligan 6, N Flanagan 5; R Whelan 6, B Murtagh 9, C Curley 6; A Devine 6, N Dowdall 6, A Craig 5. Subs: C Mackey 5 for Gilligan (56), D Golden n/r for McGrath (69).
Ref -- D Hughes (Carlow)