GAA Football

Armagh count cost of not closing down game against Laois

Armagh's Stefan Campbell at the Athletic Grounds in the National Football League against Laois. Picture by Colm O'Reilly
Neil Loughran

Allianz Football League Division Three: Armagh 0-16 Laois 2-11

THE hoodoo continues.

Four meetings in just over 12 months, four wins for the bogeymen from Laois – but Armagh had only themselves to blame for leaving the Athletic Grounds with nothing but regret yesterday.

Leading by five with 13 minutes left on the clock against a team who had only managed two points in the previous 37 minutes of play, it appeared only calamity could deny the Orchardmen a first victory in Division Three.

And so it was. Just as they had let a six-point lead slip in Sligo the week previous, Armagh errors allowed Laois to gradually get a foothold in a game that had looked beyond them.

The rot started when goalkeeper Matthew McNeice kicked straight to Ambrose Doran who laid off to Donie Kingston. As the Laois forward advanced into the square, he was upended by a combination of McNeice and Mark Shields.

Shields was sent from the field when referee David Gough flashed a second yellow while McNeice was left to pick the ball out of the bottom right corner of his net after Kingston's sweetly struck spot kick.

Despite the best efforts of super-sub Jamie Clarke, Armagh's implosion wasn't over yet. Another McNeice kick-out was gobbled up and Kingston landed another easy point to cut the Orchard lead to just a point with three minutes left on the clock.

As the game went into added time, there was a strong sense of foreboding inside the Athletic Grounds.

Kingston levelled the game and seconds later corner-back Darren Strong burst forward unimpeded to send over a beautiful winning point from under the stand.

Tempers frayed when a high tackle from Paul Kingston floored Niall Rowland in the dying seconds.

The Laois substitute was shown a second yellow, and he was soon followed from the field by Aidan Forker after the Maghery man struck out at David Conway during the ensuing melee.

When the dust had settled, Armagh were left sitting with one point from their opening two league games rather than the four they could, and should, have had.

Add in the 13 wides Armagh kicked to four from Laois, and Kieran McGeeney's frustration was obvious.

“It's just very disappointing,” said the Orchard boss.

“We should've had the game won at half-time, the amount of chances we missed.

“We gave them a penalty, we lost a player on the back of it and that just seemed to be the beginning of the turn. We were playing pretty well up to that, even though we had missed numerous chances.

“The buck stops with me and you just have to take it on the chin.

“[We had] three open goal chances in the first half, all of them went abegging even though there were men on the outside. Shots from frigging 13, 14 metres out kicked wide.

“They're quality forwards, they're not poor forwards.

“It's hard to take. Not to be able to finish the game out when it was there for us is more than disappointing.”

Credit must also be given to a Laois team who were hammered out the gate by newly-promoted Louth last weekend and who, already without a number of key men, lost influential midfielder Colm Begley before the game.

That 11-point hammering by the Wee County was clearly on the minds of the O'Moore men as they packed their defence.

Yet even in the early stages Armagh's defensive frailties proved their undoing as the speedy Niall Donoher was allowed to run 50 metres through the middle of the field before slotting to the net.

Even goalkeeper Graham Brody was getting in on the act, making regular forays into the Armagh half throughout the afternoon and starting two moves which ended in frees that were put over the bar.

With Laois leading 1-4 to 0-4, Jamie Clarke was introduced after 25 minutes and he livened up an Armagh attack that was otherwise lacking in inspiration.

The last three points of the half from Paul Hughes, Oisin O'Neill and Forker drew them level at the break.

And soon Armagh were putting the pedal down. After opening Laois points from Kingston and Donoher, the Orchardmen reeled off seven in-a-row as they managed to isolate Clarke against Strong time and again.

The Crossmaglen star looked to be getting back towards his best as he bagged two superb scores from distance during this period while Stefan Campbell also hit his stride, but that was as good as it would get for McGeeney's men.

Once Kingston was fouled for the penalty he would convert, Armagh just couldn't stop the slide that led to a galling one-point defeat.

Not that Laois boss Peter Creedon cared one bit.

He wasn't there last year when the counties met three times, but the former Tipp boss was happy to continue the Leinster outfit's winning tradition against Armagh.

“We stuck at it, stayed in the hunt and the penalty brought us back into it,” said Creedon.

“We went after the Armagh kick-out and it paid dividends. It was just a matter of hanging in there, keep playing... but we made a lot of mistakes today too.

“We won't be getting too high about beating Armagh away from home because, in fairness, Laois seem to have the Indian sign over Armagh, whatever it is.”

Armagh: M McNeice; M Shields, C Vernon, P Hughes (0-1); A McKay, N Rowland (0-1), A Forker (0-1); S Sheridan (0-1), N Grimley; R Grugan (0-1, free), S Campbell (0-5, 0-3 frees), O O'Neill (0-3, 0-1 free); A Duffy, E Rafferty, O Mac Iomhair.

Subs: J Clarke (0-3) for O Mac Iomhair (25), A Findon for E Rafferty (HT), G McParland for A Duffy (52), C O'Hanlon for R Grugan (67)

Yellow card: M Shields (43, 62), A Findon (48), N Grimley (52), S Campbell (59), N Rowland (59)

Red card: M Shields (62), A Forker (76)

Laois: G Brody; D Strong (0-1), D Booth, J Kelly; E Buggie, K Lillis, S Attride; S Ramsbottom, D Luttrell (0-1); C Murphy (0-1), A Doran, N Donoher (1-2); R O'Connor, D Kingston (1-6, 0-4 frees), K Meaney.

Subs: D Conway for R O'Connor (15), R Munnelly for C Murphy (45), P McMahon for A Doran (48), P Kingston for S Ramsbottom (54), D O'Reilly for N Donoher (63), E Lowry for K Lillis (63)

Yellow card: A Doran (45), P Kingston (65, 67), D Conway (76)

Red card: P Kingston (76)

Referee: D Gough (Meath)

Att: 3,691

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