Down stay up as they prove too strong for Laois in Newry

Barry O’Hagan scores 1-9 in seven-point victory for Ulster side

Down 2-19 Laois 2-12

Down secured Division Two status for next season after an impressive victory over Laois at Páirc Esler in Newry. Two goals in the opening seven minutes of the second half swung the game in Down’s favour and after surviving a penalty scare too, they never looked back.

Barry O'Hagan fisted into the net after Ryan McEvoy's perfect pass only minutes into the restart and Caolan Mooney looked to have squandered his chance, but Laois goalkeeper Niall Corbet fumbled the ball into his own net. It was a massive boost for Down and when Laois' Donnie Kingston converted his spot-kick over instead of under the bar only a minute later, it was another massive shot in the arm for Down.

Laois made a few changes from the team that lost heavily to Kildare last week, Gary Walsh who scored 1-5 against the Lilywhites lost out with Colm Murphy starting in his place at corner forward. And Seán Byrne was moved from starting on the bench last week to making the first 15 on Saturday evening.

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Paddy Tally's Down also made changes to their team that narrowly beat Westmeath with Gerard McGovern returning from his suspension with Ryan McEvoy missing out and up front Liam Middleton was the surprise inclusion ahead of young Conor McCrickard.

It was Laois that had the upper hand at the break with Evan O’Carroll’s goal giving them a one-point lead, but Laois couldn’t live with Down’s pace, and they gave away cheap frees, which Barry O’Hagan converted.

Kingston’s 71st-minute goal was of scant consolation as Laois will begin next season in Division Three of the National League.

DOWN: R Burns; G Collins (0-1), G McGovern, P Murdock; P Laverty (0-1), D O'Hagan (0-1), P Fegan; J Flynn, C Mooney (0-2); L Middleton, B O'Hagan (1-9, nine frees), L Kerr (0-1); C Doherty, C Quinn (0-2), D Guinness.

Own Goal: N Corbet (Laois)

Subs: R McEvoy for Middleton (34), S McConville (0-1) for Doherty (57), K McKernan for Fegan (60), J Guinness for Quinn (68), C McCrickard (0-1, free) for Kerr (68), J McGeough for B O'Hagan (70+2), R McCrickard for Flynn (70+2).

LAOIS: N Corbet (0-3, three 45s); R Pigott, M Timmons, G Dillon; S Lacey, C Begley (0-1), P O'Sullivan; K Lillis (0-2), J O'Loughlin; S Byrne, P Kingston, E Lowry (0-1); E O'Carroll (1-0), D Kingston (1-3, two frees, 0-1 pen), C Murphy (0-1).

Subs: M Scully for S Byrne, M Barry for P Kingston (both 53), B Byrne for Lowry, B Daly for Lillis (both 60), G Walsh (0-1) for Lacey (65), B Carroll for O'Carroll (70).

Referee: J Henry (Mayo)