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Strong finish defeats Armagh

NFL – Armagh 0-16 Laois 2-11

For the second successive week Armagh surrendered a comfortable second half lead but this time they paid the ultimate price, the loss of two home Division Three league points, as Laois emerged 2-11 to 0-16 winners at the Athletic Grounds.

With 14 minutes left on the clock Armagh led 0-14 to 1-6 but the O’Moore County boosted by a 26th minute penalty outscored the hosts 1-5 to 0-2 to turn around a match in which they had looked dead and buried.

Laois boss Peter Creedon has made three changes to his team with Kieran Lillis, Cormac Murphy and Ruairi O’Connor replacing Alan Farrell, Eoin Lowry and David Conway following last Saturday’s twelve-point loss to Louth at O’Moore Park. Laois then made one additional change with Sean Ramsbottom replacing Colm Begley just before the game commenced.

Kieran McGeeney also made a trio of changes as Paul Hughes, Aidan Forker and Aaron Findon replaced Shea Heffron, Ciaran Higgins and Ben Crealey on the team that started in Sligo. There was also late changes to the announced Armagh team as Oisin O’Neill and Rory Grugan started in place of Aaron Findon and Conor White.

Armagh took an early lead as a foul on Ethan Rafferty enabled Stefan Campbell to open the scoring inside the opening minute. Laois were level two minutes later through Cormac Murphy. On nine minutes, Niall Donoher races through from midfield to the 14 yard line, before firing to the net for the games opening goal and a real settling score for the visitors.

A Danny Lutterall point followed to give Laois a 4 point cushion. In the space of a minute a converted Campbell free and a point from raiding defender Paul Hughes were followed by a pointed Donal Kingston free to leave the green flag between the sides after 17 minutes. Oisin O’Neill and Kingston exchanged points before three unanswered Armagh points from Aidan Forker, O’Neill and midfielder Stephen Sheridan saw the teams go in at the short whistle on level terms 0-7 to 1-4. Armagh who were guilty of some poor wides in that first half had replaced Oisin MacIomhair with Jamie Clarke after 25 minutes.

It was Laois who made the better start to the second half as points from Kingston and Donoher, inside a minute, rocked the Orchard into action as they hit a purple patch of seven unanswered points in a dominant 20 minute spell. Two points from Campbell restored parity with O’Neill giving Armagh back the lead since the opening minute. Clarke weighed in with a brace followed by converted frees from Grugan and Campbell to leave it 0-14 to 1-6 some 21 minutes into the half. The two players who had kept Laois alive in the match Donoher and Kingston came to their rescue once more as the game looked like drifting beyond them. Donoher notched their first score in 23 minutes a point, before Kingston was fouled in the square by Mark Shields, who was dismissed for a second yellow. Kingston dusted himself down and converted the penalty to make it a one point game 2-7 to 0-14. A terrific Clarke point was a great Armagh response but three minutes later a Kingston free had the deficit back to the minimum. Centre-back Niall Rowland strode forward to double the home advantage with a terrific point. Yet another Kingston point from a free made it 0-16 to 2-9 as the added on time of five minutes was flashed. Campbell and Eoin Lowry both hit bad wides before Kingston from a another free made it a drawn game. Before 14 man Armagh could muster a challenge from the kick-out Darren Strong pointed Laois in front. Man of the Match, Kingston took on for the team by picking up a second yellow for a high tackle and in an ensuing mellee Armagh lost Forker to a straight red to finish with 13 men.

Home losses are not good in the league and after 2 rounds of fixtures Armagh are in the wrong end of the table in the relegation zone as opposed to the promotion places. There is a week’s break before Armagh travel to Longford for what is now a must win game.