Strong finish gives Laois win over Down

Down 1-11 Laois 0-20

Willie Hyland top-scored with nine points as the Laois hurlers claimed their fourth win in succession by overcoming Down at Portaferry.

The visitors led by 0-12 to 0-3 at the interval, with Gareth Johnson, Brendan Ennis and James Coyle keeping Down in touch.

The Mourne men showed a marked improvement on the restart. Points from Coyle, Ennis, Connor Woods, allied to a 45th minute goal from Johnson, cut the gap to five points.

However, Laois finished strongly to maintain their run in second place in Division 2, which keeps them well in contention for a final berth on May 2.

Clinical Laois began this game brightly and led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 10 minutes, thanks to good work from Hyland, Michael McEvoy and the 18-year-old Neil Foyle.

McEvoy was effective in both defence and attack throughout, and was one of the visitors' best players in a game which they led from the second minute.

Coyle kept Down in touch with an 18th minute point, but Laois hit seven points without reply in the second quarter, with Hyland, Eoin Costello, Joe Fitzpatrick and James Walsh on target as they went in at the break with a nine-point advantage.

With the aid of a stiff wind, Down bounced back on the restart andcut the gap to six points by the 41st minute.

Down went in search of a goal and although midfielder Ciaran Coulter had his 43rd minute effort blocked by Laois goalkeeper Eoin Reilly, Johnson struck for the only goal of the contest, just two minutes later, to leave the score at 0-14 to 1-6.

McEvoy added the next score for Laois, but points from Johnson and Connor Woods cut the gap to four points as the game entered the final quarter.

Laois dug deep in the final quarter, with some impressive scores from Hyland and Matthew Whelan, while Costello was also on target in the closing stages as Niall Rigney's charges ran out six-point winners.

DOWN: K Keating; L Clarke, S Murray, S Ennis; P Hughes, R McGrattan, M Ennis; A Savage (0-1), C Coulter; C O'Prey, G Johnston (1-2, 0-1f) , B Ennis (0-3); J Coyle (0-3, 0-1f), C Woods (0-2, 0-1 sl), S Clarke.

Subs used: K McGarry for Coulter (43 mins), D Flynn for S Clarke (59), E Clarke for O'Prey (63), P Flynn for M Ennis (68).

LAOIS: E Reilly; C Dunne, D Maher, B Stapleton; JA Delaney, M Whelan (0-3, 0-3f), C Healy; M McEvoy (0-2), James Walsh (0-1); E Costelloe (0-2), J Rowney, J Fitzpatrick (0-1); T Fitzgerald, N Foyle (0-2), W Hyland (0-9, 0-6f, 0-1 sl).

Subs used: Z Keenan for Rowney (48 mins), J Prior for Maher (50), J Purcell for Fitzpatrick (59).

Referee: Tony Carroll (Offaly)

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