Armagh must increase score tally in Laois - Kieran McGeeney
ARMAGH manager Kieran McGeeney is acutely aware of the threat Laois pose on Saturday, but his primary concern is increasing his side's score tally.
The Orchard county’s failure to convert chances in front of the posts has been an ongoing problem since McGeeney stepped into the management hot seat. Against Cavan, three forwards were held scoreless and subsequently substituted - Ciaron O’Hanlon, Colm Watters and Gavin McParland all making way.
Of course, it would be easier to score if they weren’t playing most of their football marking space along the halfway line, but McGeeney remains convinced that only through composure will Armagh be able to get the scoreboard ticking over.
“It is just about people making the correct decision under pressure,” said McGeeney.
“Each score is not worth just that score, it depends when you get it and how you get it and it can have a different effect than just that score. It can have an add-on effect if the teams have their tails up.”
Armagh kicked eight first-half wides against Cavan, but found a tally of 0-14 and McGeeney feels his men are heading in the right direction: “We are getting closer to the sort of scores that we want - we really should have finished the game with 1-15 and maybe a wee bit more but, if we can get to that sort of level, then we have a good chance of winning,” he said.
“It is decision making and conversion rates. We dropped one ball short against Cavan and they got three points from it. They got a 45 and they scored from our two worst kick-outs off it - so one mistake can cause that.”
The Armagh manager refuses to buy into the theory that defensive football is stifling the game and believes counter-attacking football is delivering a high-scoring platform. And he acknowledges Laois have fine-tuned their game-plan.
“Laois are counter-attacking and that is how they got both their goals against Dublin," he added.
“That is the way that Gaelic football has gone and, despite what the naysayers believe, the scoring has actually went up, despite all the mass defences. I remember playing a lot of games where we didn’t score more than 11 or 12 points with Armagh. This was back when there was no mass defences. Even the Dublin-Meath saga, they were 11 or 12-point games as well.
“Looking at how they [Laois] played against Dublin, they have shown that they can score on the counter. Conor Meredith is back and playing well. Donnie Kingston has started to settle into senior football. He has really showed in Division Two this year that he is going to be a constant threat. Brendan Quigley and Kevin Meaney are back and playing well. They have a good set-up and structure and [coach] Anthony Cunningham seems to have made a good impact by what has been already done.”
With Armagh’s Ethan Rafferty ruled out through injury, Aaron Findon is likely to start in midfield. Ciaran O’Hanlon and Colm Watters are expected to have recovered from niggly complaints and should play higher up the Portlaoise pitch than they did against Cavan.
Armagh lost 0-15 to 1-13 against Laois earlier this season, with Stefan Campbell bagging seven points and, with revenge in mind, Gavin McParland, Rory Grugan and Jemar Hall should be capable of penetrating the Laois defence.