Down booked their place in the third round of the Irish Hockey Challenge with a 3-0 win over Larne at Malone Park last weekend.

Jeremy McCready's side now face Portrane away on February 12, with victory in this game taking them into the semi-finals.

Last Saturday's encounter wasn't a classic by any means. Larne could only muster 10 players, while Down had only 12 players available across the entire club as the chronic shortage of bodies continues to be a matter of great concern.

The home side started well when Adam McKee, who enjoyed oceans of space in the middle of the park all afternoon, went on the first of numerous mazy runs in the fifth minute. But his strong shot was saved by the 'keeper.

Two minutes later Ringland saw his shot blocked before Larne mounted their first attack which was snuffed out by Willie Price at the heart of the home defence. Ringland's cross into the heart of the Larne penalty area should have been tucked home by the unmarked Mark Graham at the back post while moments later the same player went close from a strikingly similar position.

Larne forced the first short corner of the game in the 13th minute but Down 'keeper Philip Brown wasn't troubled, while two minutes later David Ferris produced a timely intervention to stop Niall McGoldrick in his tracks.

The visitors had a glorious opportunity to take the lead in the 18th minute. Brown produced a great save to deny McGoldrick but with an open goal at his mercy Greg Lilley rattled his shot against the post and the chance was gone.

Brian Hagan should have given the home side the lead in the 20th minute when well placed at the back post, but the home supporters didn't have to wait long for the opening goal which came two minutes later.

McKee's run took him just inside the penalty area at which point he unleashed a powerful shot which nestled in the bottom corner. Four minutes later Down doubled their advantage.

Shaw McVeigh won possession and teed up Ringland who made no mistake with a cracking finish which gave the 'keeper no chance. The impressive Gary Brown then picked out his skipper whose first time ball into the penalty area deserved to be finished with a goal.

Alan Russell and Darren Haveron both went close at the other end for the visitors before McGoldrick almost broke the net with a screamer of a shot which Brown could nothing about to leave the interval score 2-1.

Graham set up McKee in the 44th minute but the Down midfielder's shot went wide before Brown produced a smart save to prevent Haveron from making it 2-2 in the 46th minute.

Down went 3-1 ahead in the 55th minute with a move started by Price and finished by McCready who kept his cool in the penalty area to calmly lift the ball over the 'keeper to effectively seal his side a place in the quarter-finals.

McVeigh saw his shot saved in the 60th minute before Larne 'keeper Jason Worthington produced a series of great saves in the closing stages to spare his side what would have been a heavy defeat.