Reigning Ulster champions Armagh found little difficulty in overcoming the challenge of Monaghan in their All-Ireland Championship second round qualifier at Clones this evening. The visitors got off to the best possible start when they scored their first goal inside the opening three minutes. The ball was lobbed over the Monaghan defence after good work from Tony McEntee and Paul McGrane combined with Barry O'Hegan to set up John Toal who shot low and hard into the far corner of the net.
Armagh continued to dominate in the opening stages and opened up a 1-03 to 0-01 lead inside the first quarter-hour courtesy of points from Oisin McConville and Steven McDonnell. However, despite all their dominance, the Ulster champions fail to take a grip on this match and Monaghan, although obviously inferior, managed to keep the deficit to four points at the break, trailing by 0-03 to 1-04 thanks to three points from Ciaran Tavey, Thomas Freeman and Gary Meehan.
In the second half, Armagh again took control in the early stages and notched up a further 1-03 to just a single point from their opponents. Their second goal came when Steven McDonnell played a wonderful one-two with McConville before netting 12 minutes after the re-start. Further points from McDonnell and O'Hagan extended Armagh's advantage to 2-9 to 0-4.
Even a sending-off for Armagh midfielder Tony McEntee after two yellow cards could not scupper their chances of progressing to the next round of the qualifiers and although Monaghan did notch up a few late scores to give the scoreboard some semblance of respectability, they will be disappointed with their efforts in tonight's game with the final score standing at 0-10 to 2-12.
Meanwhile, at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois ended Clare's interest in this year's All-Ireland Championship but they did not make it easy for themselves and in the end only won by two points. Clare will be bitterly disappointed with their efforts as they shot 16 wides over the course of this encounter and enjoyed long periods of dominance but just could not make their possession count while Laois took advantage of their opponent's lethargic display to further their All-Ireland cause.
The key to this game was that Laois took almost all of the few chances that came their way while Clare continually wasted their opportunities to score. Ian Fitzgerald opened the scoring for the home side and by the 15th minute Laois led 0-04 to 0-00. Clare finally broke their duck in the 17th minute thanks to a successful free from Clare corner forward, Colm Mullen.
Laois led by five points by the interval and although Clare narrowed the gap to three points thanks to two scores from David Russell, they never looked like catching up with their opponents. It wasn't until deep into injury time that they finally secured the points that their eary efforts merited when Jim Young found the net but by then it was too late and Laois held on stoutly to win by 0-13 to 1-08.
Filed by Amanda Fennelly