Wednesday 22 January 2020

Fireworks not needed in explosive start

Fergus mcdonnell

WHILE the home of GAA hosted a squib so damp as to send the drainage system into overdrive, the Allianz National Football League roared to life with an evening of quality entertainment. And not a firework in sight.

Three games -- in Navan, Derry and Portlaoise -- saw Meath, Derry and Laois give their campaigns early impetus and send the supporters home with no shortage of talking points.

Meath and Armagh locked horns in a division two thriller which kept the crowd guessing all the way to the final whistle. In the end, Meath took the spoils with a brace of late points from David Bray, but the victory was built on earlier foundations.

The Royal County found the net twice -- at the start of each half -- and it was these goals from Stephen Bray and Jamie Queeney the gave them the breathing space to resist Armagh's determined fightback.

That second goal put Meath six points clear, but Armagh sprang to life with six unanswered scores before Bray applied the finishing touch.

Laois too, had to dig deep to survive a fightback from Tipperary who showed that they can live at this altitude.

The home side had enjoyed a ten-point advantage at half time, but Tipperary, inspired by a Philip Austin goal in the 57th minute, refused to lie down and Laois needed points from Brendan Quigley and Donal Miller to secure a narrow win.

North of the border, Derry proved themselves the best of neighbours, taking full advantage of a sluggish Tyrone start to record a six-point success.

With James Kielt notching 0-6 from frees, Raymond Wilkinson chipping in 1-2 and Eoin Bradley adding another 0-4, the Derry forward line was on fire.

Tyrone allowed their hosts an early advantage and although, they fought back to take the lead six minutes before the break, they went in at half time three points behind.

Derry made that six soon after the restart and Tyrone were unable to close the gap.

Reports Page 12

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