Brilliant Laois blitz Down in second half to win NFL Division 3 opener

Rory Delaney

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Rory Delaney

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rory@leinsterexpress.ie

Brilliant Laois blitz Down in second half to win NFL Division 3 opener

Laois senior footballers produced a remarkable second-half performance to open their NFL Division 3 campaign with a win over Down.

Laois 2-15

Down 1-12

John Sugrue's side were four points down at half time and had only scored one point from play in the first half, but they blitzed Down after the break by scoring 2-10.

Down made a bright start to the game, as Paul Devlin popped over a free in the third minute. Pat Havern added another from play seconds later, but Laois composed themselves well after that.

Evan O'Carroll won a free after being pushed in the back 30 yards out, and he duly popped it over the bar. He won an attacking mark next and sent that sailing between the posts, before he then landed a long-range free from outside the 45, despite slipping as he hit it. That put Laois ahead at 0-3 to 0-2, but Down quickly hit back.

Pat Havern drew his side level when he landed a free from about 40 yards out, and Paul Devlin then put them back in front when Graham Brody got caught in possession and coughed up a free.

The game was see-sawing at this stage and Conor Boyle put Laois back on level terms. Evan O'Carroll's left-footed shot was mis-hit and instead found Boyle unmarked ten yards out, but he opted to fist it over the bar from a tight angle.

Paul Kingston then won a free and O'Carroll got his fourth of the half, but that would be Laois' last score before the break, coming in the 18th minute.

Down didn't immediately wrestle back control, rather they gradually pulled away. An attacking mark from Conor McGrady resulted in a point and a brilliant free from Pat Havern put them in front.

Laois looked short of ideas at this stage, as they enjoyed plenty of possession around midfield but Down's defensive set up prevented them from making any headway.

Down then finished the half strongly as two frees from Paul Devlin and an attacking mark from Jerome Johnston saw them lead 0-9 to 0-5 at the interval.

Things looked a little bleak for Laois at the break, but the introduction of Colm Begley and Donie Kingston at half-time breathed new life into their challenge. 

Down got the first point of the half, through Conor McGrady, but Laois took over after that. Kingston was stationed at centre-forward and was a useful outlet, while Evan O'Carroll pointed twice to get them up and running. Donie then added a brace to put Laois in front, O'Carroll hit one from play,  Conor Boyle saw a shot for goal fly over the bar and Kingston added a free.

That was seven in a row, and Laois now lead by two. Down reached for their bench, bringing in four subs in as many minutes, and one of them, Donal O'Hare nabbed a much-needed point for them.

It failed to knock Laois out of their stride though, and after controversially winning possession in midfield, after referee Martin McNally missed a blatant jersey tug from Seán Byrne, they broke for a goal. Laois moved the ball well and Evan O'Carroll did well to set up Colm Murphy for a clinical finish.

They should have had another moments later when O'Carroll set up Paul Cahillane, only on the field a matter of seconds, but he hit the crossbar.

Down put the cat among the pigeons with a goal from Donal O'Hare, but Laois showed remarkable composure to weather that storm and hit back with a game-winning goal from Paul Cahillane in injury time.

LAOIS

Scorers: Evan O'Carroll 0-8 (0-5 frees, 0-1 AM), Donie Kingston 0-3 (0-1 free, 0-1 AM), Conor Boyle 0-3, Colm Murphy 1-1 (0-1 free), Paul Cahillane 1-0.

Team: Graham Brody; David Seale, Shane Nerney, Adam Campion; Stephen Attride, Robbie Pigott, Gareth Dillon; John O'Loughlin, Kieran Lillis; Damien O'Connor, Conor Boyle, Seán Byrne; Colm Murphy, Evan O'Carroll, Paul Kingston. Subs: Colm Begley for Campion (half time), Donie Kingston for O'Connor (half time), Paul Cahillane for P Kingston (58 mins), Rob Tyrell for Lillis (63 mins), Eoin Lowry for Byrne (63 mins)

DOWN

Scorers: Paul Devlin 0-4 (all frees), Donal O'Hare 1-1, Pat Havern 0-3 (0-2 frees), Conor McGrady 0-2 (0-1 AM), Jerome Johnston (AM), Conor Francis 0-1 each.

Team: Rory Burns; Ryan McAleenan, Niall Donnelly, Shay Murnin; Stephen Fegan, Colm Flanagan, Johnny Flynn; Conor Francis, Liam Devlin; Conor McGrady, Conor Poland, Stephen McConville; Paul Devlin, Pat Havern, Jerome Johnston. Subs: Caolan Mooney for L Devlin (blood sub, 36-41 mins), Caolan Mooney for Donnelly (46 mins), Cory Quinn for P Devlin (50 mins), Donal O'Hare for Havern (50 mins), Daniel Guinness for McGrady (51 mins), Ceilum Doherty for Poland (61 mins)

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)