Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Disappointingly poor from Armagh

Allianz NFL Division 2 Laois 0-16 Armagh 0-10

Following a very impressive start to the league a week ago by cruising to a 13-point home win over Cavan, Armagh were brought crashing down to earth with a bang at MW Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaois where the hosts cruised to a 0-16 to 0-10 victory.

Whilst it was a disappointingly poor performance from Armagh, the newly promoted hosts dominated proceedings from the get-go to give their new manager Mike Quirke his first win as Laois manager.

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney made two late changes to the named same starting 15 from the previous week with Aaron McKay and Mark Shields replacing Aidan Forker and Rory Grugan. Laois had announced one change to the team that earned a point away to Roscommon a week ago with Graiguecullen’s Brian Byrne coming in for his Allianz League debut at corner-back where he replaces Trevor Collins who was involved in Sigerson Cup duty during the week.

Portlaois has never been a happy hunting ground for Armagh and a taste of what was to come came inside the opening minute when half forward Colm Murphy palmed the bouncing ball over the advancing Blaine Hughes, only to see it drop the wrong side of the upright. Laois, playing with the aid of a slight breeze, took the lead on 5 minutes via a converted Evan O’Carroll free, indeed O’Carroll and Mark Barry were to give the Armagh defence a torrid evening both from open play as well as punishing their indiscretions, with 12 points between them, 9 from placed balls and 3 from play.

A beautifully struck “45” from the boot of Rian O’Neill levelled matters for Armagh but Laois then went on to outscore their visitors 7 points to one for the remainder of the half. The much vaunted Armagh attack was denied space and room by a tenacious tough tackling, close marking defence that only conceded three points from play over the course of the match. With the Laois tactic of pushing up on the Armagh kick-out the Orchard were deprived of primary possession and with the hosts up for the fight, Armagh outside of a second half 10-minute period of dominance, were surprisingly found wanting all over the park. Michael Keogh with a great point and a first converted free of 6 by Barry, stretched the lead to 3-1 before Armagh, with a fisted point from Niall Grimley, became their only score of the half from play and indeed their last score for the next 18 minutes. Armagh play was littered with basic footballing errors, poor passing, carrying into and losing possession and wrong shooting options which resulted in a total of 6 poor first half wides. Laois, for their part, shot 5 wides but their direct play into their forwards yielded further point for O’Carroll (2), Brian Byrne, and Kieran Lillis and to emphasize the home dominance full back Mark Timmons wasn’t going to let his full-back line comrade Byrne hog the scoring limelight as he started and finished a full length pitch move with the best point of the half. Mayo referee Jerome Henry blew the half-time whistle followed by thunderous applause from the home support as the Orange clad brigade scratched their heads searching for answers to what they had just witnessed from their Armagh team.

For the second half Armagh introduced Jarly Og Burns for Jason Duffy with the Silverbridge midfielder their second sub of the game as Aidan Nugent had replaced Mark Shields 28 minutes into the opening half. Armagh needed a fast start but found themselves 7 points in arrears as a Mark Barry free opened the second half scoring. For the first time in the match Armagh were getting ball forward to their inside attacking line and rattled over 4 points on the spin without reply. Armagh’s second score from play came from Conor Turbitt followed by a hat-trick of Rian O’Neill converted frees as the pace of play rose a notch or two especially from the visitors. Under the cosh for the first time in the match Laois responded in style with O’Carroll stretching their lead back to 4 points as a first point from play from Rian O’Neill left a green flag between the sides 10 minutes into the half but a brace of frees from Carroll and Barry effectively killed of any Armagh revival. Jarly Og fisted over a point from the 21-yard line and when Timmons denied Oisin O’Neill a much-needed goal the Orchard challenge faded despite springing Joe McElroy, Jamar Hall and Jamie Clarke off the bench.

Armagh’s two chief tormentors Carroll and Barry added another 3 points to the Laois cause negated a little by two pointed frees from substitute Clarke to take the Armagh final tally to 0-10 which was six shy of a jubilant Laois crowd when the final whistle sounded. It was a long journey back up the road for the travelling Armagh support who just like the team management could not have foreseen such a poor performance coming from their team which had shown good form in all games played this year.There is little time to dwell on defeat as Kildare are in the Athletic Grounds this coming Saturday night at 7pm.

 ARMAGH: Blaine Hughes, Paddy Burns, Brendan Donaghy, Aaron McKay, Greg McCabe, Conor O’Neill, Stephen Sheridan, Niall Grimley (0-1), Oisín O’Neill, Jason Duffy, Mark Shields, Callum Cumiskey. Conor Turbitt (0-1), Rian O’Neill (0-3 frees,1 “45”), Stefan Campbell. Subs: Aidan Nugent for Shields (28), Jarlath Óg Burns (0-1) for Duffy (ht), Joe McElroy for McCabe (46), Jemar Hall for Cumiskey (56), Jamie Clarke (0-2frees) for O. O’Neill (60)

LAOIS: Niall Corbet; Brian Byrne (0-1), Mark Timmons (0-1), Gearoid Hanrahan; Sean O’Flynn, Robbie Pigott, Patrick O’Sullivan; John O’Loughlin, Sean Byrne; Michael Keogh (0-1), Colm Murphy, Eoin Lowry; Mark Barry (0-7,6 frees), Kieran Lillis (0-1), Evan O’Carroll (0-5,3 frees),. Subs: Trevor Collins for Keogh (46), Damien O’Connor for S Byrne (60), Ross Munnelly for Murphy (66), Cahir Healy for B Byrne (69), Darragh Connolly for Pigott (70)

Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo).