Two on the Trot for Armagh

March 10, 2014

Allianz NFL Division 2 Armagh 2-18 Laois 1-12

Armagh followed up their 0-19 to 2-10 Navan win over Meath with an impressive Athletic Grounds performance against Laois as they recorded their second League win of the campaign on foot of a 2-18 to 1-12 scoreline. While Jamie Clarke stole the scoring plaudits against Meath, he was restricted to a single point against Laois, but 9 of his fellow teammates got their names on the scoresheet as they recorded 2-15 from open play.

The Armagh camp was laid low with a flu virus during the week and management made two changes from the team that started against Meath. Charlie Vernon and Oisin McIomhair were replaced by Ethan Rafferty and Stefan Forker. Laois were on a high following their 1-20 to 0-8 win over Galway the previous week.

Wind assisted Armagh could have goaled inside 10 seconds as a long Harold delivery caused all sorts of bother in the Laois defence before being scrambled to safety. Tony Kernan was wide of the mark with Jamie Clarke bringing a great save out of goalkeeper Broady with Stefan Campbell popping the rebound over the bar for the games opening score after 2 minutes. Laois packed midfield and defence against the breeze and in a six minute spell hit a bewildered Armagh for 4 points as Donie Kingston, John O’Loughlin, Ross Munnally and James Finn all found the target. Armagh management quickly addressed the Laois tactics with switches of their own that were to bring huge dividends. Armagh scored five points on the trot with Tony Kernan, Stephen Harold, Kernan again, Ethan Rafferty and Stefan Campbell, left the home side 6-4 ahead after 21 minutes. Kingson broke a 15 minute Laois drought with a pointed free. Campbell and Kingston traded points before Armagh went on another 5 point scoring spree as their off the shoulder running had Laois at sixes and sevens. Clarke scored a super point as two of his full back line Paul Hughes and Andy Mallon got on the scoreboard, Tony Kernan added point number 11 all from open play before he pointed the first Orchard free to leave it  double scores 0-12 to 0-6 with 4 minutes to the short whistle. Armagh had outscored Laois 10-2 in the last 22 minutes and looked to add more before the break. Following a Finn wide for the visitors they then broke up an Armagh break from defence to telling effect.  Padraigh McMahon drove clear baring down on the Armagh goal with Philip McEvoy stopping his piledriver and was very unlucky to see the ball fall into the path of midfielder O’Loughlin who punched to the net to put a spring in their step as they went to the dressing room only 3 points 0-12 to 1-6 in arrears. Armagh had 7 different players on the scoresheet in that first half and had some great team and individual scores to warm the cockles of the home support.

The Orchard boys started the second half where they had left off on the offensive with Clarke setting up Caolan Rafferty for the opening score quickly followed by a Tony Kernan free to stretch the lead to 5 points. Walsh hit the butt of the post as Laois were denied a goal. David Conway and Munnally cancelled those Armagh points as quick thinking from Tony Kernan with a short “45” to Ethan Rafferty who pointed. Laois were in real trouble when the impressive Stefan Campbell was on hand to register a second green flag to make it 2-15 to 1-9. Campbell, Kernan and substitute Eugene McVerry added to the Armagh total with 2 Kingston frees in reply for Laois.

A second League win on the trot for Armagh was most pleasing especially as Meath held Donegal to a draw and Galway picked up their first win by beating Down. Next up on Saturday night at the Athletic Grounds are Ulster champions Monaghan. Like Armagh and Down, Monaghan have 5 points two behind leaders Donegal who take on Down this weekend. While not wanting to get carried away the improvement in Armagh since the league break has been immense. There is a sense of urgency, belief and playing pattern developing which is most pleasing. The horrendous injury crisis that management have had to endure may yet turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it has given prolonged game time to fringe players who have taken the opportunity with open arms. Whilst relegation and promotion prospect are very much evenly balanced at present sceptical supporters must be impressed by what they have seen from the team to date. With a tough trio to come, to finish off the League campaign, Monaghan, Galway and Donegal, there is an air of optimism that regardless of the outcome of those games that the Armagh graph is on the upturn following a very shaky start to the League.

Armagh – P McEvoy, P Hughes (0-1), A Mallon (0-1), M Murray; M Shields, E Rafferty (1-1), P O’Neill; A Findon, S Harold (0-1); T Kernan (0-6, 3f), K Dyas, C Rafferty (0-1); J Clarke (0-1), S Campbell (1-4), S Forker (0-1). Subs: R Grugan for P O’Neill, B Mallon for S Forker, E McVerry (0-1) for E Rafferty, K O’Rourke for K Dyas.

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, 3f), C Begley; R Munnelly (0-2, 1f), D Conway (0-1), B Sheehan. Subs: G Walsh (0-2) for J Finn, E O’Carroll for D Conway, P Kingston for B Sheehan.

Referee – J McQuillan.