Laois 2-15 Down 1-12
Laois made the perfect start to their bid to emerge from Division 3 of the NFL with a thunderous second-half performance at Páirc Esler last night. They trailed by four points at half-time, but tore Down's defensive screen to shreds after the break, hitting 2-10 to the home side's 1-3.
It was an evening which looked so promising for new Down manager Paddy Tally, but which ended in misery. Place-kickers dictated the course of the opening half, with Laois full-forward Evan O'Carroll converting four times, while Pat Havern and Paul Devlin accounted for all but two of the home side's scores, mostly from frees.
Despite the promptings of John O'Loughlin around midfield, Laois were increasingly frustrated as their opponents forced turnovers, and without a single score in the second quarter, they trailed by 0-9 to 0-5 at the interval.
The half-time introduction of Donie Kingston made an impact as Laois took the game to the home side, hitting five points in seven minutes to go level.
With Colm Begley also in the game to add power and experience, they applied intense pressure, with Kingston claiming three points, before Conor Boyle pushed the Leinster men back in front.
After conceding seven points in a row, Down finally found a response through substitute Donal O'Hare, but they struggled to match the work-rate of a Laois side for which Gareth Dillon and Seán Byrne put in massive shifts.
And in the 59th minute John Sugrue's side truck for the goal they had been threatening, Paul Kingstown sending Colm Murphy in for a clinical finish past Rory Burns. Down struck back with a Donal O'Hare goal after Daniel Guinness had played on after claiming a mark, and with five minutes to play, Conor Francis narrowed the gap to a point. But O'Carroll's magic won the day for the O'Moore men, his majestic pass sending Cahillane in for a second goal in the 70th minute.
Scorers - Down: D O'Hare 1-1, P Devlin 0-4 (4f), P Havern 0-3 (2f), C McGrady 0-2 (1f), J Johnston (f), C Francis 0-1 each; Laois: C Murphy 1-1 (0-1f), P Cahillane 1-0, E O'Carroll 0-8 (6f), D Kingston (2f), C Boyle 0-3 each.
Down: R Burns; R McAleenan, N Donnelly, S Murnin; S Fegan, C Flanagan, J Flynn; C Francis, L Devlin; C McGrady, C Poland, S McConville; P Delvin, P Havern, J Johnston. Subs: C Mooney for Donnelly (46), C Quinn for P Devlin (49), D O'Hare for Havern (49), D Guinness for McGrady (51), C Doherty for Poland (62).
Laois: G Brody; D Seale, S Nerney, A Campion; S Attride, R Piggott, G Dillon; J O'Loughlin, K Lillis; D O'Connor, C Boyle, S Byrne; C Murphy, E O'Carroll, P Kingstown. Subs: C Begley for Campion (h-t), D Kingston for O'Connor (h-t), P Cahillane for P Kingston (17), E Lowry for Byrne (63), R Tyrell for Lillis (63)
Referee: M McNally (Monaghan).
Its' not how you start, it's how you finish. Goalkeeper Mark Jackson missed his first four attempted frees, but nailed two long-range efforts on 65 and 71 minutes to get Wicklow over the line.
With five minutes to go until half-time, it was Waterford two points to one ahead with Wicklow having spoiled 11 opportunities at the posts, with eight wides and three falling short of the mark. Waterford were certainly on the backfoot during these exchanges, but good defensive covering and poor Wicklow shooting was contributing to the direction of play.
But, with the wind at their back, the Deise spurned to life before the break, registering five points between the 32nd minute and the fifth minute of stoppage time. Debutant Sean Whelan-Barrett was responsible for two of those scores, giving the home side a 0-7 to 0-1 grip at the break. It was a period of dominance that was brilliant but all too brief, as Wicklow came out of the traps with ferocity early in the second half.
Wind aided, Patrick O'Connor and Anthony McCloughlin had points on 41 and 44 minutes as Wicklow began to eat into the deficit. On 46 minutes they got the strike required when Waterford were robbed of possession deep in the Wicklow half, and in one of the few direct moves of the game, Wicklow found the net, O'Connor with the finish.
Wicklow finally took the lead on 59 minutes through an excellent free from Gearoid Murphy from the sideline. Waterford bit back through Tommy Prendergast immediately but the tide was turned, and Wicklow landed the final two punches to earn the win.
Sunday Indo Sport