Offaly had to work hard to see off a gritty Down side in the Joe McDonagh Cup at Ballycran on Sunday afternoon.

While Offaly deserved their win and the five-point winning margin was a fair reflection of the way this game went, it was far from easy for them and Down were not far away from a shock win.

Offaly weren't at their very best but they did just enough to win and that is all that matters for them as they bid to reach the Joe McDonagh Cup final. With two wins out of their three games, Offaly will get there if they keep winning and results are the bottom line for Michael Fennelly's charges.

The Kilkenny man won't have been over the moon at this display. They always looked like they would have just enough to win but they were never at their ease and Down were snapping at their heels right at the end.

An Eoghan Sands flick flew just wide of the post four minutes into injury time and that would have reduced the gap to just a point. Instead, Offaly breathed again and a closing free from David Nally gave them a five-point lead at the final whistle.

With the wind on their back in the first half, Offaly exerted a quiet control on the game without doing a whole lot spectacular. They got ahead by double scores, 0-06 to 0-03 after 12 minutes and had doubled the gap to six, 0-12 to 0-06 after 25 minutes. They were 0-17 to 0-08 ahead with half-time approaching and it was all beginning to look very comfortable for them.

Instead, Down snuck in for a goal and a point in injury time. The goal came from Daithi Sands after sloppy Offaly defending and a Conor Woods point left the home side trailing by 0-17 to 1-09 at the break.

Offaly went 0-20 to 1-10 clear early in the second half but Down got right back in it when Conor Woods blasted a 25 metre free to the net, via a deflection. Man of the match Killian Sampson got in for a crucial 50th minute goal to give Offaly a 1-22 to 2-12 lead and a sufficient cushion to get home.

They never fully put Down away and they will be disappointed in that but Down never got closer than four points as Offaly held on for the win.

Offaly: Stephen Corcoran; Eoghan Parlon, Ciaran Burke, David King; Jack Screeney, Ben Conneely, Ross Ravenhiill; Leon Fox (0-01), John Murphy (0-01); Adrian Cleary, Eoghan Cahill (0-16, 12f), Killian Sampson (1-05); David Nally (0-02, 1f), Jason Sampson (0-01), Brian Duignan. Subs - Eimhin Kelly for Ravenhill (HT), Luke O'Connorfor Cleary (40m), Liam Langton for Murphy (53m), Paddy Clancy for Cahill (72m)

Down: Stephen Keith; Matt Conlon (0-01), Caolan Teggart (0-01), Michael Hughes; Tom Murray, Sean McManus, Conor Woods (1-02, 1-00 f; Pearse Og McCrickard, Liam Savage; Paul Sheehan (0-08, 6f and 1 '65'), Eoghan Sands (0-01), Ryan McCusker; Daithi Sands (1-01), Chris Egan (0-01), Marc Fisher. Subs - Tim Prenter for McCusker (HT), Jordan Doran for McCrickard (43m), Oisin McManus (0-03, 3f) for Sheehan (54m), Gerard Hughes for Woods (61m), Padraig Doran for Egan (73m).

Referee: Thomas Gleeson.