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National Hurling League: Down 3-15 Laois 3-11

Three unanswered goals in the final five minutes by Laois left an exciting finish in this Allianz NHL Division two game in McKenna Park, Ballycran.

But Down refused to be overcome and after a terrific display of first time hurling they deserved their victory.

That final goal blitz by Laois did no more than put a better look on the scoreboard.

It was Down who were always in control and but for two brilliant saves by Laois keeper Patrick Mullaney and a brilliant block by full back Brian Campion of a goal bound shot by Down’s Benny Ennis, the losers would have been further behind.

The Down half back line of Ciaran Coulter, Conor Woods, who emerged as the star player on view, and Michael Ennis was in magnificent form throughout.

Up front the return of Portaferry’s Paul Braniff certainly gave Down the edge in this sector and along with Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson and Benny Ennis they were most impressive picking off great scores.

Down led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 10 minutes with two points from Braniff and one each from Gareth Johnson and Eoin Clarke. Willie Hyland pointed the Laois free.

Twice points were exchanged before Braniff from a free and Andy Savage scored Down points while midway through the half Braniff finished off a pass from Andy Savage for a goal.

Three minutes later Johnson cut inside for another goal and although Laois finished with two John Brophy points Down led by 2-8 to 0-6 at half-time.

Four minutes into the second half, John Brophy pointed for Laois but Down replied with points from Braniff and Benny Ennis.

Willie Hyland pointed two Laois frees but Down struck for their third goal from Johnson while Braniff added two points as they led by 3-14 to 0-10.

Laois staged a great rally with two goals from Neil Foyle and Willie Hyland but Down held out for a deserved victory.

Down: G Clarke, Hughes, Conway, Ennis, Coulter, Woods, M Ennis, Savage (0-1), E Clarke (0-1), Johnson (2-2), S Clarke, B Ennis (0-2), A O’Prey, P Braniff (1-7, 0-2 frees), J Coyle (0-2). Subs: C O’Prey (for A O’Prey 55); K. Keating (for G Clarke 69).

Laois: P Mullaney, JA Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton, B Smith, M Whelan, B Galvin, J Walsh, S Burke, B Dunne, W Hyland (1-5, 0-4 frees), C Murray (0-1), O Holohan, G Reddin, J Brophy (0-3). Subs: N Costello for S Burke (ht); E Costello (0-2) for O Holohan (h.t); N Foyle (2-0) for C Murray (48): C Dunne for B Smith blood (10), B Smith for C Dunne (23)

Referee: E Hasson (Derry).

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