Hero Henderson Heralded

March 9, 2010

N.F.L Div. Two LAOIS 0-12 ARMAGH 0-13

The fickle fate of players at the hands of their own supporters was never more in evidence than at O’Moore Park Portlaoise where Armagh snatched victory 0-12 to 0-11 in the third minute of added on time. With the teams level at 12 points each Ryan Henderson was clear in on goal and opted for a simple lead point but his feeble effort dropped into the grateful arms of Laois goalkeeper Marty Dowling with the howls of derision towards the Clann Eireann player ringing round the ground from the large travelling support. Some five minutes later Ryan was acclaimed the hero by the said same supporters as his well taken third point of the night from a far more difficult angle secured two very valuable league points for Armagh.

Armagh manager Paddy O’Rourke made three changes from the team which started in the big win over Westmeath in round two. Barry Shannon, Charlie Vernon and Tony Kernan made way for Kevin Dyas, Malachy Mackin and Ronan Clarke. Rival Laois manager Luke Dempsey made 5 changes from the side which were soundly beaten in Donegal in their last league outing. Laois were ahead inside a half minute as MJ Tierney tapped over a free for a foul on himself by Paul Duffy. Straight from the kick-out Armagh were level with Clarke placing Stevie McDonnell for the visitors opening score followed five minutes later with his second from a free following good work by Henderson. Centre back Cahir Healy burst through the Armagh defence to level before a second Tierney free had Laois in front on 10 minutes. It took Armagh six minutes to level with Aaron Kernan converting a free for a foul on Malachy Mackin.

Kevin Dyas, long awaited return from injury was shortlived as the Dromintee man came off replaced by fellow clubman Vincie Martin who made an instant impact for all the wrong reasons. Within three minutes of coming on Martin on the instructions of the linesman was red carded for an off the ball incident with Kevin Meaney who was given a yellow card. In between Martin’s introduction and sending off Armagh had taken a 2 point lead with a brace from Stevie from Killeavy. The first and Armagh’s fourth saw McDonnell swivel and send over a delightful score followed by a second from a “45” to make it 5-3 with 10 minutes left on the first half clock. An incicive Laois move ended with Peter O’Leary pointing but a converted McDonnell free gave him his fifth score of the half to re-establish that two point advantage. which was quickly halved by a point from Laois full forward Paul Lawlor. Paul Duffy, freed from marking Tierney, who was giving him a lot of trouble, sallied upfield to combine with Aaron Kernan who offloaded to midfielder James Lavery for a well executed score to leave it 0-7 to 0-5. A clever ball out of defence from Moriarty found Henderson who put a goal between the sides with his first point of the match. A terrific sixth point from Stevie made it 9-5 before a second yellow before the short whistle for Meaney evened the teams numerically leaving Armagh to enjoy their four point cushion at the interval.

Towering Laois U-21 star Donal Kingston who was in action earlier that day in his teams 0-13 to 0-10 win over Wicklow made an instant impact coming in at full forward for Lawlor by notching the opening score of the second half. This was the first of four consecutive Laois scores which levelled things at 9 all by the tenth minute after the restart. A pointed Tierney free, half back Colm Begley weighed in with the next point before corner forward Billy Sheehan fisted the leveller for the O’Moore County. With the home team on a roll it was crucial for Armagh to break that momentum and the industrious Mackin did just that with Armagh’s first point of the half on 46 minutes. Henderson and Duffy combined to set up Armagh’s top scorer McDonnell for his only score of the second half. Laois replaced Green and Donoher with Darren Rooney and Craig Rogers. With a quarter of an hour left on the clock Henderson was on the end of a very patient 14 pass Armagh move to notch his second point of the night to leave a goal between the teams 0-12 to 0-9.

With the game slipping from them Laois threw caution to the wind with playing positions meaning nothing as they pushed forward in droves. Half back Darren Strong raced through for a point which was followed by a second for Kingston from a free.An out of sorts Ronan Clarke clearly in need of match practice was replaced by Brian Mallon. Full back Mark Timmons brought Laois level with their twelfth score as the clock headed for added time. It’s probably an indicement of the present day football that the next two lead point attempts came from defenders as Padraig McMahon followed Timmons who tried to re-enact his earlier heroics with two wides all this after Henderson had wasted his gilt edged opportunity and Armagh had introduced Mickey McNamee and Ronan Austin for Mackin and Lavery respectively.

A heart stopping last gasp attack from Armagh which saw defender Moriarty involved twice along with Aaron Kernan left the ball in the hands of probably the one player the Armagh supporters dreaded at the time, given his earlier easy miss but in true sporting fashion and deserving of his non stop workrate all night, Henderson lit up the night sky in a sea of orange as his sweet left strike dissected the posts for the match winning score.

As was previewed beforehand to break out of Portlaoise with a meaningful result is never an easy task for Armagh. What is all the more pleasing about the result even though the display at times was very ropey is that for the first time in a number of years Armagh came out tops in a tight encounter. Recognised exponents of seeing out tight finishes in their hayday Armagh had let this halo slip in recent years. Saturday night will have done a lot to restore this inner self belief of invincibility that when the going gets tough that the Orangemen stand firm to repel all challengers. Traditionally the round of fixtures following the break is usually the hardest one as teams have had time to regroup and get a bit of extra training under their belts. Laois were a lot tougher proposition than they were in Donegal and now that they are in a relegation dogfight they will be even more difficult to beat.

With the top two teams in the Division dropping points Donegal suffered a first defeat in Kildare going down 1-17 to 1-09 and neighbours Down being held to a surprise draw at home to Tipperary 0-14 to 1-11 Armagh find themselves in second place in the table a point behind sole leaders Down. Although there are four teams Armagh, Kildare, Donegal and Meath on the four point mark the Orchard county are second because of the scoring averages. The next series of matches next weekend are very interesting. Down go to Ballybofey to take on Donegal on Saturday night while Armagh entertain Kildare at Crossmaglen on Sunday. Meath go to Tipperary and Westmeath are at home to Laois.

Armagh – P McEvoy, A Mallon, B Donaghy, P Duffy, A Kernan (0-1), C McKeever, F Moriarty,. K Toner, J Lavery (0-1) K Dyas, M Mackin (0-1), J Feeney , R Henderson (0-3), S McDonnell (0-7), R Clarke Subs- V Martin for Dyas, M McNamee for Mackin, R Austin for Lavery

Laois-M Dowling; J Scully, M Timmons (0-1), P McMahon; D Strong (0-1), C Healy (0-1), C Begley (0-1); B Quigley, C Óg Greene; P O’Leary (0-1), K Meaney, N Donoher; MJ Tierney (0-3), P Lawlor (0-1), B Sheehan (0-1). Subs: D Kingston (0-2) for Lawlor (ht); C Rogers for Donoher (58); D Rooney for Greene (58)

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).