Time runs out on Down as Laois avoid the drop
Fourteen-man Laois secured Division 2 Football for 2015, but only after a hard-earned three-point win over Down at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise yesterday.
The O'Moore's led by nine points at the interval, and held Down to just 1-1 in the opening half, but almost threw this game in the second half, as Down came storming back.
Full-back Denis Booth was handed a straight red card in the 52nd minute after a foul on Donal O'Hare and with Aidan Carr converting the resulting penalty, Down cut the gap to four points.
But, to their credit, Laois held their nerve with good scores from John O'Loughlin, David Conway and Donal Kingston.
Down worked hard in the five minutes of injury-time allotted with Jerome Johnston and Mark Poland registering scores, but time ran out on the visitors.
Laois boss O'Flatharta was delighted to stay up, with Division 3 football a possibility for the first time since the eighties.
"The job is done and it was a good display by the lads," he said. "We are thankful to be back in Division 2 next year."
Despite the hosts first half dominance, Laois were also hugely wasteful, kicking 13 wides.
Laois raced to a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after six minutes, but an eighth minute Conor Maginn goal undone most of Laois's early good work although they lorded possession over the remainder of the half, including their only goal from O'Loughlin.
The hosts led 1-10 to 1-1 at the interval but Down registered five of the next seven points to ensure a 1-13 to 1-6 scoreline in the 50th minute.
Brendan Coulter and Brendan McArdle were both gone on black cards for Down at this stage, with Laois's Denis Booth following them to the line on a red card after a heavy tackle on O'Hare led to a 52nd minute penalty.
Carr stepped up to cut the gap to four points, and although Conor Meredith was shown a black card in the closing 10 minutes, and Laois were on the rocks late-on, they held out for a three-point win.
LAOIS: G Brody; P McMahon, D Booth, P O'Leary; D Strong (0-1, 1'45), P Begley, C Begley; J O'Loughlin (1-2), K Meaney; J Finn, D Kingston (0-3, 1f), B Sheehan; R Munnelly (0-6, 1f), C Meredith (0-1), D Conway (0-3). Subs: D O'Connor for Sheehan (47); R Kehoe for Meredith (62 BC); E O'Carroll for Finn (69); MJ Tierney for Conway (72).
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, D Rooney, O Costello; A Carr (1-0, 1-0 pen), B McArdle, C Garvey (0-1); P Turley, A Rogers; C Maginn (1-0), M Poland (0-1 free), P Devlin; D O'Hare (0-4, 3f), N Madine (0-1), B Coulter. Subs: K McKernan for Coulter (23BC); C Laverty (0-1) for Turley (HT); R Boyle for Rooney (44); C Toner for Devlin (45); N Donnelly for McArdle (48 BC); J Johnston (0-2, 1f) for O'Hare (52).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).