Woods key as Down survive late Laois comeback
Down 3-15 Laois 3-11
LAOIS scored three unanswered goals in the final five minutes to set up a thrilling finale at McKenna Park in Ballycran, but Down held on for a deserved victory.
Down's first-time striking and wonderful fielding had Laois in trouble from the start. However, if the Laois attack had converted half the chances which came their way, they would have won -- Laois had 18 wides to Down's nine.
However, Down were always in control and but for two brilliant saves by Laois 'keeper Patrick Mullaney and a magnificent block by full-back Brian Campion of a goal-bound shot by Benny Ennis, the losers would have been further behind.
Down opened strongly and led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 10 minutes with two points from Paul Braniff. The game's star man, half-back Conor Woods, was keeping things tight at the back.
Twice points were exchanged before Braniff and Andy Savage scored Down points while midway through the half Braniff netted off a Savage pass.
Three minutes later, Gareth Johnson cut inside following a James Coyle pass for another goal and although Laois finished the half well, Down led by 2-8 to 0-6 at the break.
Johnson struck Down's third goal to put them 3-14 to 0-10 ahead with six minutes left.
Laois staged a great rally with two goals from substitute Neil Foyle and Willie Hyland but Down held their nerve to seal a deserved win.
Man of the Match: C Woods (Down)
SCORERS -- Down: G Johnson 2-2, P Braniff 1-7(2f), B Ennis, J Coyle 0-2 each, A Savage, E Clarke 0-1 each. Laois: W. Hyland 1-5 (4f), N Foyle 2-0, J Brophy 0-3, E Costello 0-2, C Murray 0-1
Down -- G Clarke 8; M Hughes 7, F Conway 8, S Ennis 7; C Coulter 8, C Woods 9, M Ennis 8; A Savage7, E Clarke 8; G Johnson 8, S Clark6 7, B Ennis 8; A O'Prey 7, P Braniff 9, J Coyle 7. Subs: C O'Prey 7 for A O'Prey (55); K Keating for G Clarke (69).
Laois -- P Mullaney 7; J A Delaney 7, B Campion 8; B Stapleton 8; B Smith 7, M Whelan 8, B Galvin 7; J Walsh 8, S Burke 7; B Dunne 7, W Hyland 9, C Murray 7 (0-1); O Holohan 7, G Reddin 7, J Brophy 7. Subs: N Costello 8 for S Burke (ht); E Costello 8 for O Holohan (ht); N Foyle 9 for C Murray (48): C Dunne for B Smith blood (10); B Smith 7 for Dunne (23).
Ref -- E Hasson (Derry).