An early speed wobble aside, Down were full value for their big win over Waterford in Newry which has placed them on a collision course with Meath in the Tailteann Cup.
Conor Laverty’s men strode to a 2-14 to 1-6 win, similar to the 11-point winning margin that Meath enjoyed against Tipperary in this evening’s other Group 2 game.
If results pan out as anticipated in round two, Meath and Down will then face off in the final round to decide who finishes top of the group.
Down didn’t have it all their own way initially against the Déise and it wasn’t until Eamon Brown’s 24th-minute goal that they took control of the contest.
With a number of players including Ross Carr Jr making his first championship start, the hosts built on a four-point half-time lead and added a second goal after the break from Odhrán Murdock.
Andrew Gilmore, All-Ireland club winning Kilcoo man Eugene Branagan and sub Donnach McAleenan were all among the Down scorers late on.
Elsewhere, goals from Cathal Downes and Brian Donovan elevated Limerick to a 2-16 to 1-16 Group 3 win over Longford.
Downes’s goal separated the sides at half-time as hosts Limerick led 1-8 to 0-7 and Donovan’s major helped them to victory despite a late Daniel Reynolds goal for Longford.
Meanwhile, tournament favourites Cavan bounced back from the concession of an early goal to record a comfortable 2-20 to 1-14 win over visiting Laois.
Goals from Paddy Lynch and substitute Johnny McCabe propelled Mickey Graham’s side to pole position in Group 1.
Evan O’Carroll got Laois off to a strong start with a goal inside 10 minutes to leave the Division 4 outfit 1-2 to 0-3 clear.
But McKiernan and James Smith points settled the 2022 Tailteann Cup finalists, who were awarded a 26th-minute penalty that Lynch struck to the net.
Cavan still only led by 1-10 to 1-8 at the interval but were on top throughout the second half, holding Laois to just six more points while McCabe sealed the win with their second goal.