Defeat leaves Armagh with uphill battle

Allianz Football League Division 2, O'Moore Park, Portlaoise'2/2/2013'Laois vs Armagh 'Laois' Padraig Clancy and James Donnelly of Armagh'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Allianz Football League Division 2, O'Moore Park, Portlaoise'2/2/2013'Laois vs Armagh 'Laois' Padraig Clancy and James Donnelly of Armagh'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Laois 0-20 Armagh 1-10

ARMAGH left O’Moore park in Portlaoise last Saturday night empty handed having conceded 20 points and they now face an uphill battle to have a chance of bouncing straight back to the top flight.

Team boss Paul Grimley questioned some of the referee’s decisions on the night saying ‘if there are new rules brought into the game they must be implemented properly’.

He was referring to the first half of the National Football League opener when the home side seemed to get the rub of the green, in retrospect Laois were good value for their seven points victory and bossed the game for long periods. The Ulstermen however hit a purple patch after the break and looked to be hauling themselves back into contention following a well taken goal from Brian Mallon, but it was the home side who finished the strongest to pull away for a comfortable victory.

“We have to give the new players game time,” said Grimley .“The boys have to mature and playing tough teams like Laois will stand by them in the long run.”

While the new Armagh boss will no doubt be pleased that his side didn’t concede any goals, fans would also remember back to last season when Galway hit 20 points against the Orchard County at the Athletic Grounds, a defeat which didn’t exactly boost morale.

Positives from the defeat were the performances of Maghery’s Aidan Forker and Ethan Rafferty, but from midfield backwards the visitors struggled to curtail the Leinster sides strong running from defence. Unlike the majority of inter-county managers Paul Grimley won’t have a full deck at his disposal until possibly the start of April, considering that Crossmaglen are fancied to be contesting the All-Ireland Club Final on St Patrick’s Day in Croke Park.

Speaking recently Grimley suggested that the new county senior model could take four or five years to build, a point which he emphasised following last Saturday’s defeat.

”People will have to realise and understand what we are trying to do with this team. It will take time to smooth everything out. We need patience and it will take time to build a team which can challenge for honours again.”

Maghery player Stefan Forker was a lot quieter on this occasion despite hitting two points from frees he failed to score from play, a forte which marked his first two competitive games of the season against Down and Cavan. Trailing on a scoreline of 0-14 to 0-04 at the break, Armagh had little answer to the dashing runs and scoring power of Laois front men Ross Munnelly and the brilliant former Kerry underage player Billy Sheehan who shot four points from play.

In the front line for the winners the experienced Pauric Clancy gave the Armagh defence all sorts of problems. As for the visitors performance the manager believes his side showed great determination to claw their way back into the game after the break we showed great heart particularly in the second half, but just couldn’t sustain the pressure against a decent Laois team.

Armagh can take positives from the fact that the substitutes who were introduced on Saturday applied themselves well, Steven Harold gained a foot hole at midfield, Eugene McVerry did well when replacing the injured Brian Mallon on 60 minutes and although Clan na Gael’s Stefan Campbell only featured near the end, the Lurgan man could still have a lot to offer in future National League games.