Down, already through to the Division 2 final, fielded an experimental side and still saw off a gallant Laois combination in this entertaining game at Pairc Esler in Newry yesterday.
Down were on the receiving end of a blow after 15 minutes when Benny Coulter went off with injured ribs but his replacement Danny Hughes played soundly throughout.
Laois dominated midfield for most of the game through Brendan Quigley and Kevin Meaney and it was only in the final quarter when Ambrose Rogers was drafted in did Down manage to get to grips in this sector. The football throughout was fast, keen and exciting as score for score kept the moderate attendance interested.
A second goal by John Clarke 10 minutes from time proved the vital score as it steered Down into a six-point lead. Laois finished in inspiring form with a goal from Donal Kingston, who was the best Laois player on view, ensuring a nail-biting finale with Down just holding on.
The sides were level at 0-2 each after 20 minutes before Down were awarded a penalty after John Clarke had been fouled going through. Martin Clarke saw his effort parried by Laois 'keeper Marty Dowling but he secured the rebound to send it into the net.
Kingston kept Laois in the game with four pointed frees while points from both Clarkes saw Down lead by 1-5 to 0-7 at the interval.
Laois substitute Paul Callaghan levelled within a minute of the restart before Down hit a strong attacking patch with two points from Martin Clarke frees and that goal from John Clarke, after Martin's cross had opened up the Laois defence.
Laois refused to be overcome and they fought back with points from Chris Bergin and Kingston.
Again Down responded with three points to open a six-point lead with four minutes remaining.
In a fierce Laois fightback, Kingston goaled and Cahir Healy and Ross Munnelly, from a free, added points but Down held out for victory.
Scorers -- Down: M Clarke 1-5 (4f), J Clarke 1-3 (1f), K Duffin, R Murtagh, A Carr 0-1 each. Laois: D Kingston 1-7 (5f), C Healy, C Bogle, K Meaney, P Callaghan, R Munnelly, C Bergin 0-1 each.
Down -- B McVeigh; L Lennon, B McArdle, D McCartan; A Brannigan, J Colgan, K Duffin; P Fitzpatrick, K King; C Maginn, M Clarke, T Hanna; R Murtagh, J Clarke, B Coulter. Subs: D Hughes for B Coulter (15 mins), A Carr for Hanna (h-t), A Rogers for Fitzpatrick (45), C Laverty for Murtagh (54), R Sexton for Maginn (60).
Laois -- M Dowling; J Scully, D Booth, M Timmons; P O'Leary, C Healy, C Bogle; B Quigley, K Meaney; B Sheehan, C Rogers, D Strong; P Lalor, D Kingston, N Donoher. Subs: P Callaghan for Sheehan (h-t), R Munnelly for Lalor (40), C Bergin for D Strong (53), C Greene for B Quigley (53).