Down 3-13 Antrim 0-10
Down finally came good in this third-round qualifier by scoring three second half goals that blasted Antrim into oblivion this evening.
Until Conor Laverty scored the first of those goals though, it looked like they were being dragged into heavy water as Antrim came from four points down to take an early second-half lead.
Once Laverty struck though, the flow of the match changed entirely and Down zoomed out of sight while Antrim faded badly.
Down had started the match in decent shape too, moving the ball quickly and pulling the massed Antrim defence this way and that with some smart off the ball running that produced four unanswered points in the first 15 minutes.
Two of them were Mark Poland frees, and the other two came from the impressive Benny Coulter who was picking up where he left off in the last round against Leitrim.
Both of his points had a touch of class about them. A really intelligent running line sent he clear for the first which he popped over from 30 yards out, and the second was better as he curled the ball from a tight enough angle.
Antrim had offered little going forward at this stage, but as the half progressed their midfielders Aodhan Gallagher and Brendan Herron started to dominate the aerial battle and give their team a good platform of possession and go-forward ball.
A couple of converted frees from Paddy Cunningham and two nice points from Justin Crozier and Kevin Niblock closed the deficit to just a point, and then they had a glorious chance to really take a grip on the game when Niblock raced clear on goal.
He shot straight at Brendan McVeigh but had a legitimate shout for a penalty because he was pushed from behind just as he pulled the trigger.
Down went straight down the field and Poland converted his fourth point of the half, but Antrim did at least reduce the deficit to one again before the break – 0-6 to 0-5 - when Herron kicked over a spectacular point from a narrow angle.
It was Antrim who retained the momentum at the start of the second half, and two early points by Herron and Gerard O’Boyle gave them the lead for the first time.
Down responded by summoning some real quality form the bench as Danny Hughes, Caolan Mooney and Paul McComiskey were introduced to the fray.
All three made an immediate impact, and suddenly it was Down who were coming forward in waves.
A Marty Clarke free brought them level, and then they surged ahead corner-forward Laverty wriggled and weaved his way past three tackles before rounding Brendan McVeigh to score a cracking individual goal.
They were still reeling from that blow when Aidan Branagan immediately followed it up with a point and were then knocked to the canvas altogether when Marty Clarke blasted home another goal after being put clear by Benny Coulter.
The rest of the match was a procession for the Mourne-men as Caolan Mooney blasted home a third goal and Antrim faded from the picture entirely.
Down: M Clarke 1-4 (3f, 1 ’45), M Poland 0-4 (4f), C Laverty, C Mooney both 1-0, B Coulter 0-2, A Branagan, K McKernan, P McComiskey all 0-1
Antrim: B Herron, K Niblock, P Cunnighan (2f) all 0-2, G O’Boyle, D O’Hagan, J Crozier, T McCann (’45) all 0-1
Down: B McVeigh; A Branagan, D Gordon, A McArdle; C Garvey, K McKernan, G McCartan; D Rooney, K King; C Maginn, M Poland, L Doyle; C Laverty, B Coulter, M Clarke. Subs: D Hughes for L Doyle (40), C Mooney for C Maginn (44), P McComiskey for D Rooney (48), D O’Hagan for A Healy (55), P Fitzpatrick for K King (52), A Carr for B Coulter (65)
Antrim: W McSorley; C Brady, R Johnson, J Crozier; T Sucllion, T O’Neill, A Healy; B Herron, A Gallagher; C Murray, T McCann, J Loughrey; G O’Boyle, K Niblock, P Cunningham. Subs: M Dougan for G O’Boyle (47), A Douglas for T O’Neill (51), M McCann for B Herron (53), K Brady for T McCann (65)
Ref: P Hughes (Armagh).