Carlow's hopes of qualifying for the Joe McDonagh Cup final remain alive after they comfortably accounted for rivals who have traditionally given them trouble.

The home side got off to a flying start at Netwatch Cullen Park today when John Michael Nolan fired over a point and with the Carlow forwards looking sharp and alert, Marty Kavanagh, Sean Murphy, Conor Kehoe and Chris Nolan all added points to give them momentum.

Down hit back with a Paul Sheehan free and Marc Fisher also fired over two long range efforts.

Carlow created a number of half goal chances but overcooked passes from Fiachra Fitzpatrick and Kavanagh let Down off the hook. At the break Carlow looked to be in pole position when leading 0-15 to 0-07.

The visitors were never going to allow their rivals to dominate for the entire game and they hit back with a succession of early second half frees from Fisher.

The first goal arrived on 42 minutes when Daithi Sands pulled first time on a loose ball and found the net.

The Barrowsiders lost their way a little and Down brought the deficit down to two points. Three Kavanagh frees settled the home side but they had Brian Tracey, their goalkeeper, to thank when he saved with his foot from Sands.

Perhaps, that was the fright which spurred them on and Conor Kehoe scored a goal when rising high to collect a long delivery he let fly from the left for what was essentially a game clinching three-pointer.

Kavanagh added a second for the numerically disadvantaged Carlow side who lost Jack Kavanagh to a second yellow on 62 minutes.

Down hit back with three points, but the home side had the last word with scores from John Michael Nolan and Sean Murphy which could be important when they face Offaly in their final group game next week.

Carlow: Brian Tracey; Jack McCullagh, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Fiachra Fitzpatrick, Diarmuid Byrne, Jack Kavanagh; Kevin McDonald, Richard Coady (0-1); Sean Murphy (0-5), Chris Nolan (0-1), Conor Kehoe (1-2); Paul Coady, John Michael Nolan (0-3), Marty Kavanagh (1-13 10fs 65).

Subs: Gary Lawlor for McCullagh (53), Jon Nolan for C Nolan (56), Ted Joyce for M. Kavanagh (68), Ciaran Kavanagh for P Coady (72).

Down: Stephen Keith; Michael Hughes, John McManus, Marc Fisher (0-11 9fs 2-65s); Tom Murray, Matt Conlon, Caolan Taggart; Pearse Og McCrickard (0-1), Darragh Mallon; Liam Savage, Paul Sheehan (0-3), Ryan McCusker (0-1); Daithi Sands (1-1), Eoghan Sands, Tim Prenter.

Subs: Chris Egan (0-1) for Sheehan (blood 29-permanent at h/t), Barry Trainor for Hughes (h/t), Conor Cassidy for Mallon (h/t), Oisin McManus for Savage (42), Gerald Hughes for McCrickard (49), Padraig Doran (0-1) for Prenter (68).

Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).