All-Ireland SFC Qualifier Round 4
Sligo 0-10 Down 3-20
Second half substitute Ronan Murtagh top-scored with 1-05 as Down impressively booked an All-Ireland SFC quarter-final spot at Kingspan Breffni Park tonight.
Beaten Connacht finalists Sligo trailed from early on, with John Clarke's goal helping Down into a 1-10 to 0-06 interval lead.
The Mourne men failed to ease up on the restart as team captain Ambrose Rogers grabbed his side's second goal and Murtagh also netted, leaving an off-colour Sligo simply shattered.
Traffic congestion forced the throw-in to be delayed by ten minutes and it was Kevin Walsh's Sligo side who looked unsettled, as they tried to bounce back from last Sunday's defeat to Roscommon.
Down made an ominous start to this fourth round qualifier, winning possession straight from the off and when John Clarke was found, he showed great pace to convert the first score inside 15 seconds. The recent wins over Longford and Offaly had James McCartan's charges brimming with confidence.
They were all over Sligo in the opening stages, with the Clarke brothers, Martin and John, and midfielder Rogers involved in a superb fist passing move in the third minute. Rogers laid off for Paul McComiskey to try his luck for a goal, but his effort was brilliantly stopped by Sligo goalkeeper Philip Greene.
Martin Clarke converted the resulting '45' and although Sligo seemed to settle thereafter, the Yeats men were afford little time and space to create scores.
Rogers showed great leadership, adding his weight to the attack while also making some stunning blocks in defence, with David Kelly denied in the opening five minutes.
Adrian Marren got Sligo off the mark in the eighth minute, landing the first of his three first half points from placed balls, but Down continued to find holes in the westerners' defence.
Mark Poland and Daniel Hughes pointed either side of a Stephen Coen score, as Down went 0-05 to 0-02 ahead in the 11th minute.
Sligo hit a purple patch in terms of possession and scoring opportunities in the middle third of the opening half, as they began to find a foothold in the midfield sector.
But, once again Down gave little away at the back, and Sligo's only reward for a dominant 12-minute spell was a Kelly point from play in the 17th minute.
Down responded by finding another gear before the interval, with John and Martin Clarke again in sparkling form. John fired home a 30th minute goal after Benny Coulter laid off a pass, to push his side 1-08 to 0-03 clear.
Sligo claimed three of the final five points of the first half with Marren and Kelly on target, but Down were still well in command and led by seven at the break.
Any hope Sligo had of staging a comeback were dashed when Down put on a scoring burst as the second half resumed, stringing together 1-02 inside five minutes.
Kevin McKernan and Rogers were on target for points, and the Down skipper then palmed the ball to the net after his initial shot was blocked by Sligo goalkeeper Philip Greene.
Marren pegged a point back for Sligo, but this was a mere blip in an otherwise dominant period from McCartan's men.
The Down boss opted to substitute the unusually quiet Coulter, but it was actually an inspired change. In the round 3 win over Offaly, Daniel Hughes scored within three minutes of his introduction. This week it was Ronan Murtagh who achieved a similar feat, staking a claim for a starting berth in the quarter-final.
Murtagh replaced Coulter in the 45th minute, and immediately showed his worth by scoring three superb points from play within five minutes as Down cantered into a 2-15 to 0-08 lead.
By this stage, Sligo were well beaten and the Ulster side showed no signs of slipping up, with Conor Garvey, Damian Rafferty and Daniel McCartan among those performing strongly in defence.
Murtagh also showed no mercy by adding a 66th minute goal to his tally. Substitute Colm McGee tagged on a late brace of points for Sligo, but Hughes and substitute Peter Fitzpatrick cancelled out those scores to ensure a 19-point win for dominant Down and a disappointing end to a summer which began so brightly for Sligo.
Scorers: Down: R Murtagh 1-05, J Clarke, A Rogers 1-01 each, M Clarke 0-04 (0-02f, 0-01 '45'), D Hughes 0-03, M Poland 0-02 (0-02f), K McKernan, P Fitzpatrick, P McComiskey, C Garvey 0-01 each
Sligo: A Marren 0-04 (0-04f), S Coen (0-01f), D Kelly, C McGee 0-02 each
DOWN: B McVeigh; D Rooney, D Gordon, D Rafferty; D McCartan, K McKernan, C Garvey; A Rogers, K King; D Hughes, M Poland, P McComiskey; B Coulter, J Clarke, M Clarke.
Subs used: R Murtagh for Coulter (45 mins), D O’Hagan for Rafferty (56), P Fitzpatrick for King (57), R Sexton for McComiskey, J Brown for M Clarke (both 60).
SLIGO: P Greene; C Harrison, N McGuire, R Donavan; K Cawley, B Kennedy, J Davey; E Mullen, S Davey; A Costello, M Breheny, E O’Hara; S Coen, A Marren, D Kelly.
Subs used: P McGovern for J Davey (15 mins), S Gilmartin for S Davey (39), K Sweeney for Costello (43), C McGee for Breheny (46), F Quinn for O’Hara (54).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)