Armagh beat Laois by 0-15 to 0-13 in a tense and very close Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Croke Park today. Beano McDonald opened the scoring with a good point and Oisin McConville levelled minutes later with a point after Laois goalkeeper Fergal Byron had saved brilliantly from Diarmuid Marsden.

Laois then took the lead through a fisted point from Gary Kavanagh after a Mick Lawlor pass. Byron was once again called on to pull off a great save, this time from Stephen McDonnell. On twenty minutes McDonald got only the fourth point of a very close opening period and, in the pattern of the game, McConville pointed again for Armagh.

Points from Aidan O'Rourke, McDonnell, McDonald, Lawlor, Marsden, Kavanagh and McConville saw the sides trade scores for the last fifteen minutes of the first half and the sides went in level at seven points apiece at the break.

The start of the second half was delayed by Armagh who kept Laois, the 70,000 or so in Croke Park and the large television audience waiting until referee Pat McEnaney ushered them out by knocking on their dressing room door. Andrew McCann re-opened the scoring for Armagh, followed by a score from Kavanagh for Laois to level the match and another from Darren Rooney gave Laois a one-point lead.

The match fell back into the pattern of the first half, with Marsden drawing the sides level again and McConville putting Armagh ahead, only to have McDonald restore parity once more.

However, around the 50th minute Armagh's class began to show and they pegged some scores on the board through Philip Loughran, McConville and Ronan Clarke to establish a four-point lead. Laois battled hard to get within two points through Noel Garvan and McDonald but Armagh used their experience to see out the final few minutes to confirm their place in the All-Ireland semi-final later this month.

Filed by Barry J Whyte