Laois old hands simply too good, admits Tally
Down 1-12 Laois 2-15
It is often said that there is no substitute for experience and new Down boss Paddy Tally has cause to reflect on this following what was a chastening exercise for his new-look side in this Allianz League Division Three setback against Laois.
A first half that hinted at progress - Down led by 0-9 to 0-5 at the break - proved a false dawn after the arrival of the visitors' heavy artillery from the bench proved too much for his fledgling outfit.
It was after Laois boss John Sugrue despatched the hugely influential Donie Kingston, Colm Begley and Paul Cahillane in particular into the fray that Down's challenge ebbed before being extinguished altogether.
"Laois were able to bring on the kind of experience which we simply don't have but while the boys will be disappointed by the outcome on this occasion, they must learn from it," insisted Tally.
"There were a couple of crucial refereeing decisions which did not go our way after we had forced our way back into the game but Laois were able to finish strongly.
"They were also able to get the ball into their full-forward line often enough and we did not have the players to match them physically.
"I thought in the build-up to the first Laois goal Conor Francis was fouled but we didn't get it. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. Then the second goal came about nearly the same way and they had us under the thumb after that."
Yet it all been so different in the build-up to half-time. Down had recovered from a sluggish start to sweep into a 0-10 to 0-5 interval lead with Paul Devlin who landed four points from frees and Pat Havern with three (two frees) leading the way in the scoring stakes.
Evan O'Carroll had by then signalled that he was to be a thorn in Down's side by scooping four points, but it was in the third quarter when he added three more to help hoist his side into a 0-12 to 0-10 lead that he became executioner-in-chief with eight points in all.
Just when it looked as if Down might get their second wind, the previously anonymous Colin Murphy whipped in an out of the blue goal to firmly thrust the visitors into the driving seat.
Insult was added to injury from a Down perspective when substitute Paul Cahillane was on the spot a few minutes later to squeeze in a second goal for Laois that finally ended Down's aspirations of getting their league campaign off on the right note.
They face another difficult assignment against Sligo next weekend, but Tally is hopeful of having players back that will give a more seasoned edge to his side, although Brendan McArdle's anticipated return might be delayed.
"You have to consider that we had eight or nine players out there against Laois who had played no part with Down last year but although we lost there was some good football played," stated Tally. "Had we got something out of this game against Laois it would have eased the pressure going to Sligo but we are where we are."
"We have to go there looking for a result which is going to be difficult. But we have to re-group and get on with it."
"I think the key thing is that we learn a lot from this defeat to Laois and try and improve as we go forward to face what will undoubtedly be big challenges in the league."
Down: R Burns; R McAleenan, N Donnelly, S Murnin; S Fegan, C Flanagan, J Flynn; C Francis 0-1, L Devlin; C McGrady 0-2 (1f), C Poland, S McConville; P Devlin 0-4 (4f), P Havern 0-3 (2f), J Johnston 0-1. Subs: C Mooney for Donnelly (46), D O'Hare 1-1 for Havern (49), C Quinn for P Devlin (51), D Guinness for O'Grady (52), C Doherty for Poland (61).
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 0-3, S Byrne; C Murphy 1-1, E O'Carroll 0- 8 (6f), P Kingston. Subs: C Begley for Campion (h/t), D Kingston 0-3 (1f) for O'Connor (h/t), P Cahillane 1-0 for P Kingston (59), E Lowry for Byrne (62), R Tyrell for Byrne (64).
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).