DOWN preserved their Division 2 status for 2022 following a seven point win over Laois in Newry on Saturday evening.
Paddy Tally's men were thankful for keeper Rory Burns who pulled off four fantastic saves over the course of the game while centre forward Barry O'Hagan contributed 1-9.
Laois missed a penalty and played with an extra man for 23 minutes of the game but despite a bright first half, they slumped to their fourth defeat of the season.
The home side started the game well and found themselves three points to the good after eight minutes.
Caolan Mooney, Barry O’Hagan and corner back Gerard Collins all pointed before Laois opened their account through Donie Kingston.
O’Hagan added a free but then Laois put together their best move of the season after 13 minutes to draw level.
John O’Loughlin injected some pace into the attack but this was all about Donie Kingston who collected the ball in the middle of the field and charged forward – shrugging off two defenders and finding Colm Murphy who picked out Evan O’Carroll for a brilliant goal.
This lifted Laois and they almost had another goal minutes later. Down gave the ball away in their own defence and O’Carroll charged forward but this time, keeper Burns denied him.
However, Laois keeper Niall Corbet slotted the resulting 45 and the Midlanders were ahead for the first time. Captain Kieran Lillis then kicked a wonder score from in front of the terrace and Laois led 1-3 to 0-4 at the water break.
Liam Kerr cut the deficit on the resumption and Laois then had another goal chance when Colm Murphy set up wing back Paddy O’Sullivan but again keeper Burns pulled off a fine save.
Laois remained on top as captain Lillis kicked a lovely one off his left but Down ended the half with the final score as Barry O’Hagan landed his fourth free to leave it 1-6 to 0-8 at half time.
The second half burst into life when O'Hagan scored a goal. Kingston then skied a penalty after Lillis was fouled by sub Ryan McEvoy who was sent to the sin bin.
This seemed to be the turning of the game as Down, thanks to a calamitous error from Laois keeper Niall Corbet who fumbled a fisted effort for a point by Caolan Mooney, that was dropping short, into his net.
Laois never recovered from there and despite Gerard McGovern being sent off for a second yellow with 12 minutes to play, it mattered little in the end.
B O'Hagan 1-9 (nine frees), C Mooney 1-2, C Quinn 0-2, G Collins 0-1, L Kerr 0-1, D O'Hagan 0-1, P Laverty 0-1, S McConville 0-1, C McCrickard 0-1 (free)
D Kingston 1-3 (0-1 pen, two frees), N Corbet 0-3 (one free, two 45s), E O'Carroll 1-0, K Lillis 0-2, C Murphy 0-1, C Begley 0-1, E Lowry 0-1, G Walsh 0-1
R Burns; G Collins, G McGovern, P Murdock; P Laverty, D O'Hagan, P Fegan; J Flynn, C Mooney; L Middledon, B O'Hagan, L Kerr; C Doherty, C Quinn, D Guinness.
R McEvoy for Middledon (33), S McConville for Doherty (57), K McKiernan for Fegan (59), C McCrickland for Quinn and J Guinness for Kerr (both 67), J McGeough for Flynn and R McCrickard for B O'Hagan (both 71)
N Corbet; G Dillon, M Timmons, R Pigott; S Lacey, C Begley, P O'Sullivan; K Lillis, J O'Loughlin; S Byrne, P Kingston, E Lowry; E O'Carroll, D Kingston, C Murphy.
M Barry for P Kingston and M Scully for Byrne (both 53), B Byrne for Lowry and B Daly for O'Loughlin (both 59), G Walsh for Lacey (64), S O'Flynn for O'Sullivan and B Carroll for E O'Carroll (both 69)
Jerome Henry (Mayo)