Down remain in pole position to secure promotion after an impressive win over Westmeath at Cusack Park, Mullingar.
The Ulster side blitzed their Leinster counterparts particularly in the second period where they slipped a brace of goals passed veteran Westmeath net minder Gary Connaughton.
From the opening minute the signs were looked ominous for the locals as they looked completely out of their depth and unable to cope with Down’s fast, attacking style of play.
Safeguarding a five-point advantage at the interval, Down continued to impress after the break and when they netted two quickfire goals from Arthur McConville and Donal O’Hara the game was effectively over as a contest.
After the game, Down manager Jim McCorry (below) expressed his delight in the manner his side went about their business and in the course had 13 points to spare at the final whistle.
“Today’s victory against Westmeath was built out of a solid team performance,” he said. “If someone was to ask me to pick a man of the match award I wouldn’t have been able.
“From our goalkeeper right out to our corner-forward, our boys delivered and from that perspective I’m very pleased.
“I thought our keeper Stevie Kane was very good with any high ball that came in front of him this afternoon – he was equally good with his distribution.
“Considering we lost one of the best defenders in Down, Darren O’Hagan, to injury and just before the throw-in we had another setback when centre-back Brendan McCardle was forced to sit out, the lads who came in worked tirelessly and fitted in seamlessly.”
Man of the match: Donal O’Hare (Down)
Scorers: Westmeath: C McCormack 0-2 ’45’, J Heslin 0-2f, S Dempsey 0-3, R Connellan 0-1f. Down: K McKernan 0-2, C Laverty 0-3, M Poland 0-2 A McConville 1-1, D O’Hanlon 0-2, D O’Hare 1-4,1f, P Devlin 0-1f, C Maginn 0-1,
Westmeath: G Connaughton 6; M McCallon 6, K Maguire 6, K Daly 6; J Gonoud 6, K Martin 6, P Holloway 6; P Sharry 6, J Heslin 7; D Daly 6, G Egan 6, R Connellan 6; L Smyth 6, C McCormack 6, D Glennon 6. Subs: D McCormack for D Daly (3), S Dempsey for L Smith (30), F Boyle for P Holloway (35), J Gilligan for G Egan (55), J Connellan for C McCormack (59).
Down: S Kane 7, G Collins 7, L Howard 7, D Turley 7; P Devlin 7, D O’Hanlon 8, C Maginn 7; P Turley 7, R Mallon 7; C McGovern 6, K McKernan 8, M Poland 7; C Laverty 8, A McConville 8, D O’Hara 8. Subs: M McGee for R Mallon (59), A Carr for M Polland (60), C Mooney for K McKernan (60), J Johnson for A McConville (62), P Downey for P Turley (65), R McGarry for C Laverty (70).
Ref – J Hickey (Carlow)