Laois 2-15 Down 1-9
Damien Fox's reign as Laois hurling manager got off to a very satisfactory start as the midlanders ended Down's Walsh Cup hopes with a 2-15 to 1-9 defeat at Rathdowney.
Fox has had his charges training four times a week since Christmas and has brought athletics coach Jim Kilty on board to us his SAQ (Speed, Agility, Quickness) training method.
Things seem to be working well. Laois roared out of the traps, scoring four points inside the opening five minutes. The O'Moore county built up a 1-8 to 0-3 lead for the break with full-forward Tom Fitzgerald flashing home a 20th-minute goal after a neat delivery from midfielder Joe Fitzpatrick.
Down's first-half points came from the hurleys of Martin Coulter (0-2) and Brendan McGourty.
Laois made another lightning quick start on the resumption. Just two minutes into the second half, Jason Phelan teed up his fellow corner forward Philip Russell to nab the hosts' second goal.
Fox's side were completely on top at that stage and with little over 25 minutes remaining they cantered into a 2-12 to 0-3 lead when their talisman James Young, Fitzgerald and Russell banged over points.
Coulter, one of the few Down players to impress, slotted home a 56th-minute consolation goal. The Ballygalget forward finished with a 1-6 haul.
Fox emptied his bench for the remainder and his side should provide a good challenge for Dublin in next Sunday's quarter-final, especially with home advantage. Throw-in at Rathdowney is 2pm.
LAOIS: T Doran; B Campion, B Mulligan, K Fitzpatrick; C Dunne, J Young (0-1), J Phelan; J Fitzpatrick, S Dollard (0-1); W Hyland, O Houlihan, J Brophy (0-4); P Russell (1-4), T Fitzgerald (1-2), J Phelan (0-2).
Subs used: Noel Costello (0-1) for Russell, J Walsh for Phelan, D McGill for Dollard, S Dwyer for Houlihan, JJ McHugh for Brophy.
DOWN: Graham Clarke; L Clarke, S Murray, S Roddy; M Ennis, K Courtney, F Conway; A Savage, C Coulter, E Trainor; B McGourty (0-3), E McGuinness; M Coulter (1-6), K Sloan, E Clarke.
Subs used: S Ennis for E Clarke, A Brown for Trainor, Gabriel Clarke for C Coulter.
Referee: Ray Holohan (Kildare).