Armagh un-Laois orange wrath
Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Armagh 2-18. Laois 1-12.
ARMAGH played their best football this season with a convincing win over Laois at Armagh's Athletic Grounds on Saturday night.
It was a game when forward Stefan Campbell rose to the occasion to take the scoring burden of Jamie Clarke, and when Tony Kernan displayed a wonderful ability to deliver inch perfect passes as well as pick off fine scores.
It was an exciting and fast-paced contest and Armagh were worthy winners to go joint second in the league table along with Down and Monaghan, with Donegal on top.
Armagh were deservedly ahead at the break and while at times some of the passing was aimless, the Orchard men also served notice that they can adopt to play against the blanket defence.
Jamie Clarke, Tony Kernan and Stefan Campbell swung over outstanding points while full-backs Andy Mallon and young Paul Hughes also got in on the scoring act in an entertaining opening half.
Having trailed 0-4 to 0-1 the young Armagh team reiterated the fighting spirit they displayed a week previous in Navan and tapped over five excellent points on the trot before Laois found a reply.
The home side started brightly with Stephen Harold kicking long from the throw-in. Jamie Clarke's shot on goal was saved by the legs of Laois keeper Graham Brody and Stefan Forker shot wide with the rebound.
However, Campbell got Armagh off the mark after Harold's next long ball was collected by Clarke and laid off to the Lurgan forward.
But much like last week Laois found it easy to get through Armagh's defence and took the lead with Donal Kingston, John O'Loughlin, Colm Begley and James Finn gave the O'Moore men a three-point lead with only nine minutes played.
Then Armagh began to fight back, sparked by the intelligent kicking of Crossmaglen's Tony Kernan, who, surrounded by blue jerseys, looked up and from 35-metres lofted over the black spot of the crossbar.
Harold then sped through the middle of Laois defence and drilled over the bar. Kernan jinked right then left before pointing to level the score and Armagh's tail was up.
Ethan Rafferty and Stefan Campbell gave Armagh a two-point lead before Donal Kingston converted a free to narrow the gap. As expected the O'Moore County packed their defence but the Orchard proved they had the ability to pick holes in their tight back lines.
Campbell swung over his third score after Dyas picked out Clarke who supplied Campbell with the pass. Clarke then had the crowd on their feet when from the left sideline, 45-metres out and at a tight angle he beautifully executed his shot between the posts.
With so many Laois players behind the ball, Armagh were forced to is a patient build-up, which full-backs Paul Hughes and Andy Mallon were instrumental in probing forward and the duo both scored, having started and finished their moves.
Kernan extended Armagh's lead after great running from Caolan Rafferty and then from a similar position as Clarke's earlier point his club mate Kernan again sent over a stunning point to double Laois score at 0-12 to 0-6 with 31 minutes played.
Armagh looked comfortable, too comfortable in fact as when Aaron Findon went on a rare run forward he was dispossessed, and with the ball loose a number of Orchard players failed to lift it up and Laois punished with midfielder John Loughlin fisting into the net after Philip McEvoy saved Padriag McMahon's initial shot.
Half-time: Armagh 0-12 Laois 1-06
Armagh made a number changes with Brian Mallon replacing Forker and Rory Grugan coming in for Phelim O'Neill.
Granemore's Caolan Rafferty signalled Armagh's intentions with a direct run and point and Tony Kernan converted a free to stretch the lead. Conway and Ross Munnelly replied with points for Laois but Armagh didn't wilt. Instead Ethan Rafferty tapped over after Kernan's wonderfully weighted pass from a 45'.
Armagh were pressing for a goal and they got it on 48 minutes when Mark Shields sped forward but his shot was saved by the Laois keeper, however Campbell was quickest to react and drilled low into the net.
Laois were wasteful going forward and were thwarted on a number of occasions by the hard-working Armagh defence although Conway and substitute Gary Walsh chipped in with scores.
But the Armagh remained on top as Tony Kernan tagged on another point before Ethan Rafferty blasted in Armagh's second goal on 64 minutes to put the game beyond doubt.
Substitute Eugene McVerry tapped over with his first touch to conclude a great win for Armagh.
Having lost five out of the six previous meetings against Laois, Saturday's win was memorable. Monaghan is another bogey team that Armagh have to contend with in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday (March 15) at 7pm.
Armagh: P McEvoy, P Hughes (0-1), A Mallon (0-1), M Murray, M Shields, A Findon, P O'Neill, E Rafferty (1-2), S Harold (0-1), T Kernan (0-6, 3f), K Dyas, C Rafferty (0-1), J Clarke (0-1), S Campbell (1-4) and S Forker. Subs: R Grugan for O'Neill (ht), E McVerry (0-1) for E Rafferty (70).
Laois: G Brody, D Booth, M Timmons, P O'Leary, D Strong, P Begley, P McMahon, J O'Loughlin (1-1), K Meaney, J Finn (0-1), D Kingston (0-5, 4f), C Begley, R Munnelly (0-2, 1f), D Conway (0-1) and B Sheehan. Subs: G Walsh (0-2) for Finn (ht), E O'Carroll for Conway (62), P Kingston for Sheehan (68).
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