Coulter and Ward strike to keep Down hopes alive

Down 0-12 Laois 0-10

Down won the game with points from team captain Benny Coulter and substitute Shane Ward scored almost ten minutes before the end.

"We gave possession away so easily, we just didn't use the ball properly," said a disappointed Mick O'Dwyer. "The two midfielders from Down caught some mighty ball, they were really outstanding and when you lose midfield in any game you are in trouble. Near the end, I thought we could have got a couple of frees and we had two marvellous chances of goals in the first half."

Down manager Paddy O'Rourke singled out Dan Gordon of his two midfielders, commenting that he had 'owned the ball' for the last 25 minutes.

Backed by the breeze from the start, Laois used it to good effect in opening up a two-point lead through star forward Russ Munnelly, who was well supported by Donie Brennan and Shane Cooke at times and, occasionally, midfielder Noel Garvan. Even without Tom Kelly and Joe Higgins (both of whom made late appearances, out of position), the defence coped well also.

From an early stage the Down midfield pair, Gordon and Alan Molloy, were seen to good effect, as were Aidan O'Prey and Damian Rafferty in the half-back line. Up front, team captain Benny Coulter, still recovering from injury, gave the main leadership.

After Brennan had missed a goal chance in the 6th minute, Munnelly wasted an even better opportunity in the 27th minute, at a stage when Laois were a mere two points in front. At the break there was just a single score between them, 0-6 to 0-5.

Scores were level for only the second time at 0-7 each by the 41st minute before Coulter put Down in front for the first time shortly afterwards.

While Laois levelled in the 45th and 60th minutes, Down seized the initiative entering the last 15 minutes.

Ultimately, it might have been a bit of a struggle for Down to hold out for victory, but it was one they thoroughly deserved.

John Geaney refereed well.

Scorers: Down B. Coulter 0-3; J. Clarke (0-1 free), A. Rogers and R. Murtagh 0-2 each; A. O'Prey, C. Laverty and S. Ward 0-1 each.

Laois: R. Munnelly 0-6 (0-4 frees); S. Cooke 0-3; P. McMahon 0-1.

DOWN: B. McVeigh; A. Brannigan, A. Scullion, A. Rice; M. Cole, A. O'Prey, D. Rafferty; A. Molloy, D. Gordon; J. Clarke, A. Rogers, F. McGreevy; C. Laverty, B. Coulter (c), R. Murtagh. Subs: R. Sexton for McGreevy; (39th minute); S. Ward for Laverty (61st); D. Hughes for Clarke (62nd); J. Doran for McCartan (72nd). Yellow-card replacement: D. McCartan for Brannigan (55th).

LAOIS: F. Byron (c); D. Conroy, D. Rooney, P. McDonald; K. Kelly, C. Begley, P. McMahon; P. Clancy, N. Garvan; R. Munnelly, C. Conway, M. Dunne; D. Brennan, S. Cooke, P. Lawlor. Subs: S. Kelly for Lawlor, A. Fennelly for K. Kelly and B. Sheehan for Conway (second half); J. Higgins for Dunne (52nd); T. Kelly for Garvan (60th).

REFEREE: J. Geaney (Cork).

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