Laois withstand Armagh's second half fightback and avoid another sub controversy
Laois 1-11 Armagh 1-10
This was a bizarre game befitting of the circumstances that brought it about at all.
It ended with no change from the opening joust, Laois as victors, progressing to the second round of the A group of qualifiers.
There were no issues with subs on this occasion but there was excitement galore, eventually and despite some shocking wides, a number of excellent scores too.
Laois looked on course to stroll to the victory at half time as they led by seven points but in the end, had to come from behind to snatch the honours.
Laois withstood a terrific second half onslaught from Armagh to confirm their progress in the A group of qualifiers.
John O’Loughlin’s return to the middle was an obvious advantage for Mick Lillis’ outfit while David Conway was on fire inside, managing to find space despite the number of Armagh players shuffling back.
The Ulster men had to do without Kieran McKeever and Mark Shields from the last day, although Shields did make a brief cameo appearance, as well as a lengthy list of walking wounded built up over the campaign.
It became evident very early on that Laois were on a different mental pitch to their opponents and they dominated from the start.
There was no real intensity to the visitors’ efforts though, while their attacking frailties were evident once more. They shot nine wides in the first half alone, although Laois weren’t accurate eith with eight inaccurate kicks and two more dropped short.
Niall Donoher had a point for Laois after 31 seconds . Conway added another and set up Darren Strong for a third before Armagh got their only score of the half with a 15th minute point by Micheál McKenna, whose delicate lob bounced over off the crossbar.
Conway fired a brilliant score and Cahillane slotted an easy free before Conor Meredith showed good strength and composure to fire low to the Armagh net three minutes before the break to make it 1-5 to 0-1.
Armagh left the dressing room early and must have done so on the back of some stern words from Kieran McGeeney given the completely different plane of intensity they resumed with.
That manifested itself without possession but perhaps more significantly, when they had the ball, with two or three strong-running options for the ball carrier, when it was predictable and slow in the opening half.
Rory Grugan’s switch to full-forward had a huge impact too, as did the introduction of Colm Watters and they were level by the 50th minute. Five minutes later they were in front.
Grugan fired a goal in the 45th minute to give their efforts real momentum but crucially, Tony Kernan blazed wide from a glorious position having been set up by Grugan four minutes later.
Yet Armagh kicked on with points from Grugan, Stefan Campbell and influential Watters.
Laois showed their own character though and the experienced Ross Munnelly came off the bench to score two points.
Armagh were dealt a blow with the sending off of Aaron Findon three minutes from time for something that happened off the ball and points from Gary Walsh and John O’Loughlin edged the hosts home.
SCORERS FOR LAOIS: C Meredith 1-0; D Conway, R Munnelly (1f), J O’Loughlin 0-2 each; P Cahillane (f), N Donoher, D Strong, D Kingston (f), G Walsh (f) 0-1 eaach
SCORERS FOR ARMAGH: R Grugan 1-2; S Campbell 0-4(3fs); C Watters 0-2; M McKenna, B Donaghy 0-1 each
LAOIS: G Brody, S Attride, M Timmons, G Hanrahan, D Strong, K Lillis, D O’Connor, B Quigley, J O’Loughlin, C Begley, P Cahillane, N Donoher, C Meredith, D Kingston, D Conway
Subs: A Farrell for O’Connor BC (21), K Meaney for Donoher (47), R Munnelly for Conway (54), G Dillon for Strong (57), G Walsh for Cahillane (64) M Campion for Quigley (70+3)
ARMAGH: P Morrison, S Hefron, B Donaghy, J McElroy, A Mallon, C Vernon, S Connell, A Findon, S Sheridan, T Kernan, R Grugan, A Forker, M McKenna, S Campbell, P Casey
Subs: N Grimley for Sheridan inj (6), E McVerry for Casey (27), C Watters for Connell (ht), M Shields for McKenna (63)
REFEREE: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)