Ballynahinch swept aside the challenge of derby rivals Down last weekend with a convincing 6-0 demolition at St. Colman’s High School.

The visitors were missing several key players and their cause wasn't helped when skipper Jeremy McCready was needlessly sent off midway through the first half, leaving his side down to 10 men for what was their toughest match of the season.

Ballynahinch could and should have scored more goals, but McCready's sending off certainly was the turning point in the game.

The home side led 1-0 at the time and Down, despite missing Paul Tate, Sinclair White and James Erskine, were just about holding on and had forced Ballynahinch Ôkeeper Mark Brown to produce a great stick save from a McCready short corner strike at the other end.

Ballynahinch went into the game with a five point lead at the top of the table, with their opponents locked in joint second place with the PSNI who surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Ballymena last Saturday.

Ballynahinch took the lead in the fourth minute from their first short corner of the game. Andrew Mulholland stepped forward for the set piece and while his drag flick effort looked as though it would be cleared off the line, the ball struck McCreadyÕs stick and rebounded into the net past Ôkeeper David Moreland.

A Chris Taylor run in the sixth minute came to nothing before Gavin Ringland and David Ferris combined to find Mark Elliott but Grant Hayes swooped to clear the ball from the Down striker. Within the blink of an eye Stuart Hunter went scampering away along the right flank and fired a great ball into the Down penalty area but there was no one there to provide the finishing touch.

Adam McKee then found Elliott but his shot was saved by Brown before the home Ôkeeper produced that great stick save from McCready’s goal-bound short corner striker to preserve his side's slender advantage.

At the other end, Moreland denied Mark Graham and then Philip Brown blocked an Alex Millar shot. Ballynahinch's skipper went close in the 16th minute before Leitch rattled the side board two minutes later after McKee lost possession in the middle of the park.

McIlwaine and Mark Graham cut a huge hole in the Down defence when they exchanged passes in the 19th minute as the visitors struggled to clear their lines. Then came the turning point seven minutes before the interval.

Gary Graham barged into McCready in the Down penalty area, but the visiting skipper needlessly retaliated and was shown a straight red. For his part, the Ballynahinch winger was penalised with a yellow card.

With both sides down to 10 men at this stage, Ballynahinch had a great chance to make it 2-0, but Leslie Harrison's short corner strike was well saved by Moreland before McIlwaine was yellow-carded for a coming together with Duff who was fouled.

Four minutes from the interval Ballynahinch went 2-0 ahead when Mark Graham found McIlwaine in acres of space and he fired past Moreland as the advantage of having the extra man began to tell.

The second period was just a minute old when Moreland made a smart save at his near post to deny Gary Graham but the Ôkeeper could do nothing to prevent Ballynahinch taking a 3-0 lead in the 38th minute.

Taylor, who had a case for arguing he was fouled by Hunter, lost possession in the middle of the park and the Ballynahinch manÕs run goalwards ended with the ball being crossed for Gary Graham to sweep it into the net. As far as the visitors were concerned, it was now damage limitation.

Within seven minutes of the restart Ballynahinch scored again through Gary Graham who was teed up nicely by substitute David Bolton and a real drubbing looked on the cards for the visitors. But they dug in with Ringland and McKee working really hard in the middle of the park.

Bolton should have made it 5-0 in the 46th minute but his shot scrapped the wrong side of the post, while the same player was denied two minutes later by Moreland who produced a terrific point blank save when the Ballynahinch striker had the goal at his mercy.

The home side made it 5-0 in the 53rd minute with a goal created by the experienced Grant Hayes. Hunter exchanged passes with the veteran sweeper and when he collected the ball back off him he weaved his way unchallenged into the Down penalty area he had time to pick his spot before crashing home.

There was more misery to come for Down three minutes later when Ballynahinch scored a sixth goal. This time that man Millar powered his way along the right flank and along the by-line before pulling the ball back for the unmarked Bolton who couldn’t miss this time.