Down back in the top flight as goals continue to flow
Down 3-12 Laois 1-15
Down's fondness for scoring goals helped them secure promotion back to Division One of the Allianz Football League in a victory that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
They hit the net three times in Pairc Esler yesterday, taking their goals tally in this league campaign to eleven, and earn a return to the top flight after an absence of two seasons.
Conor Laverty and Paul's Devlin's first-half goals helped them into a 2-7 to 0-8 lead at half time before sub Arthur McConville bagged a third goal in the 53rd minute.
Results elsewhere saved Laois from relegation and Ross Munnelly's well-executed, last-minute penalty gave the scoreline a more flattering look.
Evan O'Carroll treated a decent-sized travelling Laois support to an exhibition of scoring from placed balls. The 19-year-old nailed five long-range frees and two '45s.
Down manager Jim McCorry was delighted to secure promotion in his first season in charge.
"A lot of people maybe didn't give our guys the credit they deserved and thought it was going to be consolidation in Division Two at best this year, so it's heartening," he said.
Laois boss Tomas Ó Flatharta was relieved to avoid relegation, saying: "We were under pressure at the start of the league but there was great unity, no bitching among the players, and it is pleasing to maintain our league status".
"What we learned is that we have great character and fight in the team. Even today we saw that."
Laois won most of the first-half kickouts and led early on by 0-3 to 0-1, but Down responded with an unanswered 1-2 inside three minutes.
Caolan Mooney's hand-pass took out two defenders and Conor Laverty dummied the goalkeeper before tapping the ball into an empty net after 12 minutes.
Down hit seven wides in the first half and also dropped three shots short but Mooney, playing in midfield, landed one of the most memorable scores of the day, driving across the ball to land a superb long-range point.
Laois responded, hitting four points in a row in a six-minute spell.
Darren Strong's excellent long-range point was the pick of the scores as they regained the lead at 0-8 to 1-4.
Conall McGovern ended an 11-minute scoring drought for Down with a long-range point in the 29th minute to tie the scores.
Down moved the ball very well and one good interchange led to a second goal in the 32nd minute.
Paul Devlin exchanged passes with Donal O'Hare and Mark Poland before palming the ball into the net for an easy finish.
Down got to grips with things in midfield although the intensity went out of the game in the second half, with the result seemingly inevitable.
Laois hung in, though, largely through the accuracy of O'Carroll and Munnelly. Down sub Arthur McConville bagged his team's third goal after 53 minutes after Kevin McKernan's initial shot was parried by Laois goalkeeper Graham Brody to put Down 3-10 to 0-12 ahead.
Laois outscored Down by 1-3 to 0-2 in the final quarter. They reeled off three points in a row from O'Carroll, Munnelly and a great effort from play from Robbie Kehoe, before Munnelly converted the late penalty after Brendan Quigley was fouled by Conall McGovern.
Man of the Match: Conor Laverty
Scorers - P Devlin 1-2 (2f), C Laverty 1-1, A McConville 1-0, C Mooney, C McGovern, C Maginn 0-2 each, G Collins, M Poland 0-1 each, D O'Hare 0-1 (f). Laois: E O'Carroll 0-7 (5f, 2 '45's), R Munnelly 1-4 (pen, 3f), D Strong, R Kehoe, J O'Loughlin, N Donoher 0-1 each.
Down - S Kane 7; G Collins 7, L Howard 7, D Turley 7; D O'Hagan 8, B McArdle 7, C McGovern 7; P Turley 6, P Devlin 7; C Maginn 7, K McKernan 7, M Poland 7; C Laverty 8, C Mooney 8, D O'Hare 6. Subs: A McConville 7 for P Turley (45), N Madine 6 for Maginn (57), R Johnston 6 for Mooney (60), A Carr 6 for McKernan (63), P Fitzpatrick 6 for O'Hare (67).
Laois - G Brody 6; D O'Connor 6, M Timmons 7, S Attride 6; D Strong 7, R Kehoe 7, C Begley 6; B Quigley 7, J O'Loughlin 7; N Donoher 6, C Boyle 6, E O'Carroll 8; R Munnelly 7, B Sheehan 6, T Shiel 6. Subs: J Finn 6 for Shiel (48), P Begley 6 for Boyle (55), P Kingston 6 for Sheehan (61), C Kelly 6 for O'Carroll (70).
Ref - Rory Hickey (Clare)