Down 2-9 Laois 0-7
Goals in either half gave Down the momentum for a well-earned eight-point win against Laois at Pairc Esler tonight.
MJ Tierney bagged two early points, but the visitors relied heavily on the Ballyroan free-taker in the first half.
Paul McCumiskey’s 12th-minute goal was the difference between the sides as Down held a 1-4 to 0-4 interval lead.
Scores were at a premium on the restart for both sides, until a 60th-minute goal from Benny Coulter put the result beyond any doubt.
Wind-assisted Laois began in determined fashion, with a brace of Tierney points ensuring a 0-2 to 0-0 ninth-minute lead.
But Laois would not score for a further 23 minutes as Down took the game by the scruff of the neck.
After the hosts’ first point from Brendan McArdle in the tenth minute, Ross Carr's charges really got motoring.
Down showed excellent teamwork. Timmy Hanna and Benny Coulter were involved in a superb movement which finished with Paul McCumiskey slotting home a decisive first goal.
Hanna fed the ball to Coulter who went on a powerful run, with the Mayobridge clubman showing great vision in finding McCumiskey who rippled the net to move his side into a 1-1 to 0-2 lead in the 13th minute.
Down had plenty of further goal-scoring opportunities, Daniel Hughes had the best of them but he was foiled by a spectacular full-length save from Laois goalkeeper Michael Nolan.
The Mourne men continued to punish a hesitant Laois defence, with McCumiskey and Coulter a deadly combination. Hanna also provided excellent back-up, showing his admirable attacking prowess from right half-back.
The hosts continued to amass some fine scores with Hanna on target either side of a Coulter point, and a five-point gap was opened up by the 30th minute.
Coulter's score was a superb effort which came from the tightest of angles. Laois rallied with a brace of MJ Tierney frees.
However, McCumiskey's goal was still the difference as Down held a 1-4 to 0-4 interval lead.
Weather conditions worsened on the restart, with ball-handling and fielding becoming a lottery at times, but Niall Donoher helped cut the gap to two points inside five minutes, with a well-worked score.
Laois's joy was short-lived. Down edged four points in front by the 47th minute, thanks to scores from defenders Aidan Carr and Conor Garvey.
Laois had a hold on the midfield sector for a time and boosted by the introductions of Brian 'Beano' McDonald and Peter McNulty, Laois looked to mount a final quarter push.
Down were too good however and they closed out their second qualifier win with a smartly-taken Coulter goal which ended any hopes of an O'Moore county comeback.
DOWN: B McVeigh; C McGovern, K McKernan, D Rafferty; T Hanna (0-02), P Murphy, C Garvey (0-01); D Gordon, S Kearney; A Rogers, C Maginn, B McArdle (0-01); B Coulter (0-01), P McCumiskey (1-00), D Hughes (0-02).
Subs used: A Carr (0-02, 0-01f) for Murphy (21 mins), J Fegan for McArdle (53), J O'Reilly for Maginn (66), D O'Hanlon for McGovern (70+1).
LAOIS: M Nolan; C Ryan, M Timmons, R Stapleton; A Fennelly, J O'Loughlin, N Donoher (0-01); P Clancy, K Meaney; B Quigley, C Rogers, R Munnelly; MJ Tierney (0-05, 0-03f), C Coss, P O'Leary.
Subs used: B Sheehan for O'Leary (31 mins), B McDonald (0-01, 0-01f) for Coss (42), P McNulty for Munnelly (51), J Higgins for Tierney (57), B McCormack for Rogers (62).
Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan).