The full extent of the rebuild ahead in Down was laid bare in Páirc Esler on Saturday night when Laois brought experience and power off the bench to turn a five-point deficit into a six-point win.
Two divisions separated these sides last year with Down operating in the second tier and Laois crowned Division 4 champions, but there is no substitute for the quality Laois could call on when in need.
Donie Kingston, Colm Begley and Paul Cahillane were pivotal in the fightback, which started when they trailed 0-10 to 0-5 early in the second half. Laois hit seven points in a row, Evan was O'Carroll very influential all evening with 0-8 including six frees and an assist for the second goal. Colm Murphy and Paul Cahillane got the goals that clinched it.
"We had to change things up (at half-time) because we weren't getting what we expected," said Laois manager John Sugrue.
"That's part of it, and the boys in fairness adapted really well in the second half. They really went after Down in the second half. As much as anything, maybe our attitude changed, maybe we brought a bit more aggression and more directness to our play."
Down boss Paddy Tally was annoyed a foul wasn't given on Conor Francis in the build-up to Murphy's goal in the 59th minute.
When told about it, Sugrue replied: "That's interesting alright that a Down player was fouled to start it all, because generally tonight when a Down player was fouled he got a free."
Tally admitted his team's inexperience caught up with them. "Laois were bringing on experienced players but we don't have that level of experience at the moment. Generally, I was satisfied because there was a lot of good football played but we didn't have the players to match them physically.
"The lads who played they will look a lot more comfortable in two or three rounds of the league. We had maybe eight, nine players who played no part last year."
Scorers - Down: P Devlin 0-4 (4f), D O'Hare 1-1, P Havern 0-3 (2f), C McGrady 0-2 (1 mark), J Johnston (m), C Francis 0-1 each. Laois: E O'Carroll 0-8 (6f), C Murphy 1-1 (1m), P Cahillane 1-0, D Kingston 0-3 (1f, 1m), C Boyle 0-3.
DOWN - R Burns 7; R McAleenan 7, N Donnelly 7, S Murnin 7; S Fegan 6, C Flanagan 6, J Flynn 6; C Francis 6, L Devlin 6; C McGrady, 7 C Poland 7, S McConville 6; P Devlin 7, P Havern 7, J Johnston 7. Subs: C Mooney 6 for Donnelly (47), D O'Hare 7 for Havern (49), C Quinn 6 for Devlin (49), D Guinness 7 for McGrady (51), C Doherty 6 for Poland (61).
LAOIS - G Brody 7; D Seale 7, S Nerney 7, A Campion 7; S Attride 7, R Piggott 7, G Dillon 7; J O'Loughlin 8, K Lillis 7; D O'Connor 6, C Boyle 7, S Byrne 6; C Murphy 7, E O'Carroll 8, P Kingston 6. Subs: C Begley 7 for Campion (h-t), D Kingston 8 for O'Connor (h-t), P Cahillane 7 for P Kingston (59), R Tyrrell 6 for Lillis (64), E Lowry 6 for Byrne (64).
Ref - M McNally (Monaghan)