Stunning effort girls

Sinead McCleary in action.
Sinead McCleary in action.


Armagh marched into the last four of the TG4 All Ireland Senior Championship for only the second time ever with a stunning 23-point rout of Laois in Saturday’s quarter-final in Tullamore.

Two goals from former Orchard captain Mags McAlinden and yet another accomplished performance from Clann Eireann clubmate Sinead McCleary were at the heart of Armagh’s impressive victory at O’Connor Park.

McAlinden’s successor Caroline O’Hanlon led the way with 2-6 while Lurgan girl Niamh Henderson was one of nine scorers for rampant Armagh though her afternoon was cut short by a bang on the head just before half-time.

Her precautionary removal reflects current concerns about concussion in sport but the talented teenager should be fine for the next game unlike Mairead Tennyson who sustained a suspected dislocated shoulder late on.

The converted corner back had been brilliant in repeatedly repelling Laois attacks in the first half, allowing Armagh to build an imposing 14-point lead with the wind behind them.

That looked likely to be a sufficient cushion for victory but rather than conservative consolidation, Armagh positively pressed home their advantage with continued domination bringing them a further 2-10 in the second period.

Landing Laois always looked like a good draw but Armagh had to contend with a big gap of six weeks since their last competitive match so the challenge was whether they could reclaim momentum from that Ulster final success against Monaghan.

The minute’s silence before the throw-in for the late Ann Daly was a reminder of the huge personal loss Armagh manager James and his daughter, goalkeeper Katie, have suffered recently which puts sport into perspective.

Laois had a very early chance but O’Hanlon hit the net inside the opening 60 seconds and an Armagh never really looked back.

The six starting forwards, sub Siobhan Feeney and midfield duo of O’Hanlon and Henderson all got on the scoresheet.

The exceptionally comfortable margin of victory reflected not only Armagh’s ability to carve out scoring chances with O’Hanlon typically pulling the strings and McCleary increasingly influential following Henderson’s departure but some very effective, committed defending.

Having won their previous 12 games this season, Armagh commandingly dispelled any notions this could be unlucky 13 as they recorded a fourth successive Championship victory over teams that had spent the spring playing two National League levels above them.

Two goals within a minute of each other from McAlinden and McConville in the second quarter helped James Daly’s side to a 3-7 to 0-2 lead with Laois needing the last score of the half to double their account.

There was no significant fightback from Laois and a superb second goal from O’Hanlon midway through the half wasn’t much more than a bonus for Armagh but McAlinden wasn’t to be outdone as she also got her second near the end as the Orchard crew won 5-17 to 0-9.

Armagh (scorers): C O’Hanlon 2-6 (2f), M McAlinden 2-0, L McConville 1-2, K Mallon 0-2, F McKenna 0-2 (1f), S Feeney 0-2, S McCleary 0-1, N Henderson 0-1, A McCoy 0-1.