Armagh threw off the potential shackles of relegation and secured a promotion lifeline when they impressively beat Laois at the Athletic Grounds last Saturday night.
Stefan Campbell produced a man of the match performance to secure his County’s win with a goal in the last quarter to thwart a gallant Laois effort which fell short when the home side built on their recent victory against Meath
In fairness to Paul Grimley his side could have been unbeaten in this league season, the hard luck stories which resulted in defeats against Down and a draw in Drogheda were replaced at the weekend by a swashbuckling performance which will go a long way to building confidence for the visit of Cavan in June who have conceded no more than ten points in any game this season albeit playing Division 3 football.
Grimley had asked the current group of players to grab their opportunities with both hands even considering the string of absentees’ which have been strewn along the injury trail since the turn of the year,
Last Saturdays win will do for the moment, Laois aren’t in any terms ‘giants’ of the game they can struggle to make an impact in Leinster yet in retrospect Armagh’s progression in a lower grade will be seen by the fans for what it is, a starting point for a side still unsure about their future yet determined to evolve from the shadow of events which encapsulated the period from 1999 to 2005.
Capturing the moment and on a night when Jamie Clarke scored just one point following his eleven in Navan, Blues man Stefan Campbell shot 1 -04 in a performance which showed a work rate and a determination from the Lurgan man which signals his resolve to be involved in the cutting edge of championship football.
Having dominated most of the first period the home side were rocked when Laois striker John O’Loughlan broke through to put just three between them at the break, Armagh’s earlier points from Campbell, Tony Kernan and from defenders Andy Mallon and Paul Hughes kept the home side in front with the breeze to face in the second half. In was in this period however when Grimley’s men showed their worth. Laois were unlucky straight after the break when David Kinston struck a post, but the miss galvanised the Ulster men and points from Caolin and Ethan Rafferty and Steven Harold put the Orchard County in the driving seat entering the third quarter. Stefan Campbell’ first ever goal for Armagh arrived after Mark Shields had a shot parried by the visiting keeper Ger Brody and Ethan Rafferty sealed a comfortable victory with his sides second goal near the end.
Paul Grimley has utilised a big number of players since he took the Armagh job, interest in the north of the County has certainly increased with the involvement of new players like Aaron Findon, Niall McConville and Phelim O’Neill, while Clan na Gael’s Stefan Campbell will remember his first goal in an Armagh jersey.