Down 0-07 Donegal 3-15
Down were given a painful lesson about life in Division One of the Allianz Football League with Donegal running out comfortable 3-15 to 0-07 winners in Newry’s Pairc Esler.
Michael Murphy gave an exhibition of dead ball striking, with 0-8 in total from placed balls including 0-6 in the first half, at the end of which the visitors led by 0-9 to 0-3.
Two goals inside three minute from Ryan McHugh and Patrick McBrearty early in the second half killed the contest, McHugh fisting home a third late on to leave Down with much to ponder on their return to the top flight.
This was a humiliating return to the top flight for Down, who only scored two points from play and lost Donal O'Hare to a straight red card four minutes from the end.
If Down were in any doubt how tough life in Division One is going to be, the first half was a brutal reminder that mistakes at this level are routinely punished.
Early points from newcomer Ciaran Thompson and McBrearty, plus the first of Murphy's six first-half points, had Donegal coasting at 0-4 to 0-1 ahead after 16 minutes.
Down had one big chance to turn the tide when Ryan Johnston outsprinted Neil McGee to a poor Donegal kick-out and won a penalty in the 19th minute.
McGee was sent-off with a black card after tripping the pacy Mourne attacker but Donal O'Hare's tame penalty was at a nice height for Peter Boyle and the keeper pushed his shot away.
The ball was recycled to Arthur McConville who scored to reduce the deficit to 0-4 to 0-3, however, there was a sense this was a huge opportunity missed.
Donegal made them pay, dominating the middle third and scored five unanswered points before the break.
Murphy's accuracy from dead balls was unerring and great to watch.
The sideline ball he converted from around the 13-metre line was a particular treat and put them 0-6 to 0-3 up after 25 minutes.
As if Down's night wasn't already going downhill, they suffered a huge blow when Johnston was forced off with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
McBrearty nailed a left-footed free from distance before another brace of frees from Murphy gave the visitors a 0-9 to 0-3 interval lead.
Donal O'Hare ended a 21-minute scoring drought for Down with a 39th-minute free, but two goals in a three-minute spell prevented any hope of a fight-back by the home side.
Ryan McHugh started and finished the first goal five minutes after the restart, exchanging passes with Thompson before palming the ball into an empty net.
Thompson also had a hand in the second goal for McBrearty a few minutes later; his high ball was brilliantly caught by the Kilcar forward who buried the ball low into the corner of the net in a super finish.
Donal O'Hare landed three frees but the game was long over as a contest and Ryan McHugh fisted home his second goal 12 minutes from the end to add to Down's embarrassment.
Donegal had the luxury of bringing on some big names, with Leo McLoone, Neil Gallagher and the recently returned Rory Kavanagh making second-half appearances as they coasted through the closing stages of a game that must be a reality check for Down.
DOWN: S Kane; D O'Hagan, G McGovern, M Magee; M Hughes, C McGovern, R Boyle; P Turley, H Brown; J Murphy, M Poland, K McKernan; R Johnston, A McConville, D O'Hare.
Subs: C Harrison for Johnston (29), D O'Hanlon for Murphy (BC, 29), N Madine for McConville (39), M McKay for Turley (47), S Dornan for Poland (55), A Carr for C McGovern (BC, 58).
DONEGAL: P Boyle; E Doherty, N McGee, P McGrath; R McHugh, F McGlynn, A Thompson; O MacNiallais, H McFadden; M Carroll, C Thompson, E McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M O'Reilly.
Subs: E McGee for N McGee (BC, 20), L McLoone for Carroll (45), S McBrearty for MacNiallais (53), N Gallagher for C Thompson (59), R Kavanagh for O'Reilly (61), C McGonagle for R McHugh (63).
REFEREE: David Gough (Meath).