Down may have encountered difficulties in Division 2 North of the Allianz Football League but when push came to shove Paddy Tally’s troops dug deep into their reservoir of courage and character to land what could prove a significant dual boost at the expense of Laois in this relegation shoot-out.
Not only did the Mourne side copper-fasten their place in the second tier for next year at least but, in the process, they garnered a welcome ration of confidence ahead of their vital Ulster Championship clash with Donegal on Sunday week.
Manager Tally’s relief was palpable at the finish but he is only too aware that a hard road lies ahead.
“While it’s great to get this win we have to turn our attention to the championship now. We always knew that Laois would make things tough for us but I thought we put in a big effort in the second-half in particular,” said Tally.
An opening Down salvo was temporarily halted when Evan O’Carroll fired in the opening Laois goal in the 13th minute and this provided the visitors with the momentum to assemble a 1-6 to 0-8 interval lead.
But when the otherwise excellent Niall Corbet in the Laois goal somehow contrived to help a seemingly innocuous fisted effort from Barry O’Hagan into his own net in the 37th minute, Down seized the initiative and remained in the driving seat until the final whistle.
With Barry O’Hagan’s unerring accuracy from frees sustaining their efforts and Darren O’Hagan, Caolan Mooney and Gerard Collins summoning their overall experience to good effect, Down’s marauding duo Liam Kerr and Corey Quinn began to wreak havoc within the Laois defence.
The visitors were unable to maximise a penalty award which Donie Kingston drove over the bar and the loss of Down defender Gerard McGovern to a red card in the closing phase.
Even the lion-hearted John O’Loughlin at midfield and the forceful Colm Begley were unable to fire up their team’s challenge as Down’s grip on the game tightened.
Indeed, it was not until injury time that the visitors managed to snatch a crumb of comfort when Kingston squeezed the ball into the Down net.
But by then the hosts were already beginning to focus on the upcoming clash with Donegal – a mission that may yet lend emphasis to their current status.
Laois, in contrast, are left to lick their wounds.
“We were beaten by a better team, that’s the long and the short of it,” said manager Mike Quirke.