/ GAA

Armagh 2-18 Laois 1-12

Updated: Monday, 10 Mar 2014 13:04 | Comments

Laois could not match Armagh at the Athletic Grounds
Laois could not match Armagh at the Athletic Grounds

Armagh put in a strong second-half performance to pull away and register a 2-18 to 1-12 home win over Laois at the Athletic Grounds in their Division 2 clash.

Trailing by 0-04 to 0-01 early on, Paul Grimley's side claimed 11 of the next 13 points and led by 0-12 to 1-06 at half-time, with John O'Loughlin netting a 34th-minute goal for the visitors.

Three points separated the sides following a Ross Munnelly score, nine minutes after the restart, but Laois were unable to get any closer.

A brace of goals in the final quarter paved the way for a home win with Stephen Campbell (1-04) and Ethan Rafferty (1-01) on target to deliver a nine-point win.

Armagh boss Grimley made two changes from the side he had named midweek, with Ethan Rafferty replacing Charlie Vernon while Oísin McIomhar made way for Stefan Forker, while Laois stuck with the same side named midweek.

Both Rafferty and Forker had influential roles in attack throughout the course of the game.

Coming off the back of wins over Louth and Galway, after a 13-point loss to Donegal in the opening round, Laois arrived into this game with great momentum.

Despite wind-assisted Armagh registering the opening score, after a Campbell effort, Laois settled well early on.

Tomas O'Flaharta's charges moved 0-04 to 0-01 ahead after eight minutes, with Donal Kingston, O'Loughlin, Munnelly and James Finn on target.

Indeed Laois did not have it all their own way during this spell and were forced under huge pressure defensively, with Armagh missing two early goal opportunities.

Firstly a long-ball from a Stephen Harold effort was ruled out and then Caolan Rafferty blazed wide of the posts.

But Armagh settled, with Tony Kernan, Harold and Kernan again all pointing to tie the game at 0-04 apiece after 14 minutes.

The Orchard County's link play was impressive at this stage, and points from Ethan Rafferty and Campbell handed Armagh a 0-06 to 0-04 lead after 21 minutes.

Laois edged back thanks to a Donal Kingston pointed free, but the bulk of the second quarter belonged to Armagh.

Campbell, Jamie Clarke and defenders Andy Mallon and Paul Hughes all got in on the scoring act, and by the 34th minute Armagh had taken a double-scores lead on a 0-12 to 0-06 score-line.

Laois worked hard before the break and were rewarded for their endeavours, when Padraig McMahon made a bursting run from defence to set up O'Loughlin for Laois's only goal of the contest approaching the interval.

Both goalkeeper Philip McEvoy and full-back Mallon made efforts to keep out the St Brigid's clubman's shot, but it finished in the net and cut the gap to three points.

This continued to be the difference at the break with a 0-12 to 1-06 score-line, but Armagh failed to yield on the restart.

Caolan Rafferty and Tony Kernan added second-half points, and although these scores were cancelled out with well-placed efforts from Arles/Kilcruise duo David Conway and Munnelly, Armagh held the extra edge, particularly in the final quarter.

Ethan Rafferty handed Armagh a four-point lead 13 minutes into the half, but luck was not with Laois.

A Munnelly effort trailed a yard wide of the posts, while a Colm Begley goal chance ricocheted off the posts.

Armagh found the back of the Laois net for the first time as the game entered the final quarter.

Mark Shields initial shot was blocked by Laois keeper Graham Brody but Campbell's follow-up was precise and handed Armagh a 1-15 to 1-08 lead.

Laois rallied with points from Walsh and Donal Kingston, but brought their second half wides tally to six, following a Conway miss, while Colm Begley's brother Paul saw his 62nd minute close-range goal effort come off the cross-bar.

Donal Kingston did manage to pull a point back after converting a free following a foul on newly introduced substitute Evan O'Carroll.

But Armagh were firm and registered 1-02 in quick succession, with Ethan Rafferty netting their second goal after a low shot.

Substitute Eugene McVerry followed up with a point shortly after his introduction, and although Walsh claimed an injury-time point it was far too late for Laois, as Armagh moved to third spot on the league table.

Armagh: P McEvoy; P Hughes (0-01), A Mallon (0-01), M Murray; M Shields, E Rafferty (1-01), P O'Neill; A Findon, S Harold (0-01); T Kernan (0-06, 3f), K Dyas, C Rafferty (0-01); J Clarke (0-01), S Campbell (1-04), S Forker (0-01).

Subs: R Grugan for P O'Neill (HT); B Mallon for S Forker (HT); E McVerry (0-01) for E Rafferty (68); K O'Rourke for Dyas (72).

Laois: G Brody; D Booth, M Timmons, P O'Leary; D Strong, P Begley, P McMahon; J O'Loughlin (1-01), K Meaney; J Finn (0-01), D Kingston (0-05, 3f), C Begley; R Munnelly (0-02, 1f), D Conway (0-01), B Sheehan.

Subs: G Walsh (0-02) for Finn (HT); E O'Carroll for Conway (63); P Kingston for Sheehan (67).

Referee: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)

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