Hurling & Camogie

Down fail to win promotion after defeat to Laois

The Leinster side were much too strong for Ronan Sheehan’s men

Ronan Sheehan Ronan Sheehan saw his side fall to defeat in Laois Picture: Philip Walsh

Allianz Hurling League Division 2A semi-final Laois 1-24 Down 0-13

DOWN will play their League hurling in Division Two next season after a 14-point defeat at Laois Hire O’Moore Park on Saturday afternoon.

The counties played out a tight affair in February, but Laois proved too strong for this renewal and had built up a nine-point lead by half-time en route to securing a final clash with Carlow and a place in next year’s Division 1B with their fellow Leinster side.

A goal from Paddy Purcell early in the second half put Down’s hopes of a revival to bed and the game crawled to a finish for the final quarter.

Laois hurled with the wind behind them for the opening half but struggled to find the target as they racked up early wides and Down capitalised with scores from Pearse Og McCrickard and Tim Prenter.

Tomas Keyes got the hosts off the mark with a difficult effort from the sideline and McCrickard quickly replied with a free for Down on five minutes.

Momentum swung back towards the home side as they went on to hit the next five scores in succession. Martin Phelan landed his first under pressure and Aidan Corby levelled the game after Down failed to execute a sideline on their own 20-metre line.

Points from Aaron Dunphy, Purcell and a wonder score by Jer Quinlan on the sideline put Laois into a three-point lead midway through the half.

McCrickard and Dunphy traded frees before Laois hit two brilliant scores in a row through Phelan and David Dooley.

The pace of scoring continued to rise as Daithi Sands and Keyes went tit-for-tat before Ross King launched one from within his own half to sent Laois six ahead.

A brace of frees for McCrickard reduced the gap momentarily, but Laois finished out the half much the stronger.

King hit another excellent score from midfield and Quinlan bettered him with a wonder point again from the right sideline under intense pressure.

Liam O’Connell had an excellent first half for Laois and he turned provider for a pair of scores with titanic catches in midfield before handing off to King and Dunphy for two long-range scores.

Dunphy added another free before the break to put Laois into a 0-16 to 0-7 lead at half-time.

The second half opened with a flurry of frees – two for McCrickard to Dunphy’s one in the opening three minutes.

Keyes split the posts moments later after excellent work from Ryan Mullaney in midfield followed by a pinpoint pass and the Laois lead increased further when Paddy Purcell won the ball on the 45 and galloped in on goal before smashing it into the net, which effectively ended the game as a contest.

Laois E Rowland, I Shanahan, R Mullaney, D Conway; L O’Connell, P Delaney, T Cuddy; A Corby (0-2), P Purcell (1-1); A Dunphy (0-7, 0-3), R King (0-3), D Dooley (0-1); J Quinlan (0-4), M Phelan (0-2), T Keyes (0-4). Subs F Fennell (0-1) for King (45), W Dunphy for A Dunphy (57), E Killeen for Quinlan (58), J Lennon for Purcell (63), J Duggan for Phelan (67)

Down S Keith; M Conlan, C McAllister, C Cassidy; R McCrickard, C Taggart (0-1 free), D Mallon; D Hughes, L Savage; T Prenter (0-3, 0-1 free), P Og McCrickard (0-7, 0-6 frees), P Sheehan; D Toner, C Egan, D Sands (0-1).

Subs B Trainor (0-1) for P Og McCrickard (44), F Turpin for Sheehan (47), M Fisher for McAllister (55), P Savage for Hughes (57), T Murray for Toner (66)

Referee C Flynn (Westmeath)