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Down moving on up to join big guns in Division One

NFL Division Two: Down 3-12 - Laois 1-15

By John Campbell

It's onwards and upwards for Down. Jim McCorry's side duly cemented their place in Division One yesterday and even if it was not achieved in the most emphatic manner, the rich promise of perhaps even better things to come has suddenly enveloped a county starved of meaningful success for so long.

But the players' feet remain firmly on the ground - McCorry's firm rhetoric will ensure this.

"These boys have fought to the end in every game but this team is still a work in progress," declared the Mourne boss.

"We have a lot to do before the Division Two final against Roscommon in three weeks and we have even more homework to undertake before our Ulster Championship tie against Derry."

But while pragmatism rather than euphoria underpins Down's elevation, McCorry is quick to pinpoint what he feels has been one of his team's enduring virtues. "We topped our division and got ourselves into the premier sector which the lads more than deserved," insists McCorry.

"Although there may be doubters who will say that we left it late to get some of our results and maybe that there was a bit of cloak and dagger stuff in terms of stealing results at the end of matches, the fact of the matter is that you play for 70 minutes and that's what these boys did.

"They fought right to the end in games where other teams might have taken their foot off the pedal. Whether you get goals at the end of a game or at the start they all count when the bottom line which is the final score becomes clear."

And McCorry believes that his side have not garnered the laurels their endeavours deserve.

He added: "I think a lot of people have not given my guys the credit they deserve. I suppose a lot of people thought at the outset that this was really a consolidating exercise for us in Division Two but we went out to win every game we played.

"While we did not achieve that, we did enough to get promotion and now we have a Division Two final to look forward to at Croke Park which is great. That's where our focus will be."

Down lost to Roscommon in their opening league game so the Headquarters showdown will be a revenge mission.

"We have to be aware that we maybe lost a wee bit of our shape in this game against Laois and sat back instead of taking the game to them," stresses McCorry.

"We had a lot more turnovers in the second half whereas in the first half we had very few. We were playing a bit of lotto football when we didn't need to but the good thing is that we have had a good win in our own back yard against one of the most miserly teams in the division."

Despite having been held scoreless for a 13-minute period in the first half, Down still managed to remain in the driving seat by half-time.

An 11th-minute Conor Laverty goal ushered the home side into a 1-4 to 0-4 lead. Down underlined their resilience when Paul Devlin flicked the ball to the net.

Down took a 2-7 to 0-8 lead in at the interval, an advantage which should have been much more convincing.

Sub Arthur McConville pirated Down's third goal in the 52nd minute but Laois fought back and Ross Munnelly swept home a 70th minute penalty to add a dash of gloss to the final score.

Down: S Kane; G Collins 0-1, L Howard, D Turley; D O'Hagan, B McArdle, C McGovern 0-2; P Turley, P Devlin 1-2 (2f); C Maginn 0-2, K McKernan, M Poland 0-1; C Laverty 1-1, C Mooney 0-2, D O'Hare 0-1 (f). Subs: A McConville 1-0 for P Turley (44), N Madine for Maginn (56), R Johnston for Mooney (60), A Carr for McKernan (62), P Fitzpatrick for O'Hare (66). Yellow cards: McKernan (61), Turley (70).

Laois: G Brody; D O'Connor, M Timmons, S Attride; D Strong 0-1, R Kehoe 0-1, C Begley; B Quigley, J O'Loughlin 0-1; N Donoher 0-1, C Boyle, E O'Carroll 0-7 (all frees), R Munnelly 1-4 (1-0 pen, 3f), B Sheehan, T Shiel. Subs: J Finn for Shiel (46), P Begley for Boyle (54), P Kingston for Sheehan (61), C Kelly for O'Carroll (70).

Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare).

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