A WEAKENED Laois side came a cropper in Ballyshannon yesterday as a rampant Donegal won by 3-11 to 0-5.
As well as missing their suspended players and their All-Ireland Club Championship-tied Portlaoise contingent, Laois were forced into two late switches. Apart from Brendan Quigley, Colm Begley and Donal Kingston, the Leinster side were totally dominated all over the field.
Donegal manager John Joe Doherty said: "I don't think the scoreline did Laois any favours. They let their heads go down and that was unfortunate for them. We have made a decent start but we have Kildare in Newbridge in three weeks' time and we will know a lot more about ourselves after that."
Donegal were sent on their way on nine minutes when Conall Dunne was on the end of a move started by Kevin Cassidy (playing his 100th game for the county) and flicked on by Michael Murphy. They were 1-6 to 0-2 up at the break but Laois hit back with three quick points early in the second half to reduce the margin to five.
But that was as good as it got for the Leinster side. Donegal tagged on four points and then hit two goals in as many minutes from James Keaney and Murphy.
Down see off Royal challenge
Down's workmanlike display -- epitomised by the Clarke brothers -- was enough to see off the Meath challenge at a cold Esler Park in front of 4,000 to give the Ulster county back-to-back wins.
Down dominated early on and were 0-6 to 0-2 up after 28 minutes. However, Meath were just a point behind, 0-5 to 0-6, at the change of ends. David Bray, who was the visitors' liveliest attacker in the first half, scored their opening two points from frees. The midfield pair of Mark Ward and Nigel Crawford then found their range before Cian Ward closed the half with a well-struck free.
It took 11 minutes for the first score of the second period to arrive through John Clarke but it certainly didn't open the floodgates.
Ambrose Rodgers surged through the middle to send over his second score in the 52nd minute. Then, Paul McComiskey and Cian Ward exchanged points to leave the scores 0-9 to 0-6 in favour of Down with 15 minutes left. Down dominated the closing stages and points from John Clarke, Conor Maginn and McComiskey saw them ease clear with a late Cian Ward free Meath's only response in the final 10 minutes.
Lilywhites ease past Tipperary
Following a hard few weeks blighted by suspensions, injuries and an opening league defeat, there was relief for Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney as his side defeated 14-man Tipperary 1-17 to 0-8.
Trailing by 1-8 to 0-5, with 20 minutes remaining at Semple Stadium, Tipp's hopes died when Hugh Coghlan was sent off by ref Aidan Mangan for an off-the-ball incident. Tipp manager John Evans had no problem with that decision but was far from happy with Mangan's performance overall. Evans fumed: "I have no problem with Hugh being dismissed for what he did but the referee blatantly missed a foul on Hugh which caused the frustration."
McGeeney admitted that a three-week break for his men will be welcomed with open arms and the March 7 meeting with Donegal can be approached with fresh optimism. But losing Hugh McGrillen to a bruised hip and veteran Anthony Rainbow with damaged ribs were concerns for McGeeney.
Up front, James Kavanagh finished with seven points while Ken Donnelly's sixth-minute goal sent Kildare on their way. The Lilywhites led by 1-5 to 0-4 at half-time and held Tipp comfortably at arm's length in the second half, even before Coghlan's dismissal.