Laois march on but angry Mick Lillis blasts ‘unfair’ system

Laois 1-11 Armagh 1-10: In the end, like most recounts in a general election, there was no change.

Laois march on but angry Mick Lillis blasts ‘unfair’ system

We had plenty of excitement before the retention of the status quo, though it came belatedly.

The reasons for this were probably psychological and not unrelated to the fact that neither manager felt they should be facing one another again.

Armagh started like that, certainly, and Conor Meredith’s goal just before the break gave Laois a 1-5 to 0-1 interval lead.

The visitors had kicked nine wides but they were laboured, kicking aimless balls in Pearce Casey’s general direction and carrying the ball as lone wolves. With a change of tack after the resumption, they became dynamic. The ball carrier had at least two options while the off-the-shoulder runners were travelling with pace and conviction.

Rory Grugan was switched to full-forward and Colm Watters introduced. Between them, they scored a goal and four points — Grugan finding the net — and Armagh were two points clear.

Laois sprung Ross Munnelly though and the only survivor from their last Leinster Championship title success 13 years ago calmed the hosts to edge it through.

Victorious manager, Mick Lillis was pleased to advance but had some hard-hitting words for the GAA chiefs who ordered the refixture.

“I don’t think this game should ever have been replayed” said Lillis. “I don’t think common sense prevailed. But that was totally out of our control.

“The powers that be can do all sorts of things in terms of shifting matches when Dublin play but they can’t shift matches when the likes of Laois play but that’s outside of our control and we can only control what we can control.

“The bottom line is, from a hierarchical point of view, the likes of Laois don’t matter. It wouldn’t be done to Dublin, it wouldn’t be done to Kerry, it wouldn’t be done to Donegal but it will be done to the Laois’s of this world and the Carlows of this world, people who are at where we’re at in the game. I think the authorities need to have a look at the fairness of the whole system.”

Armagh boss, Kieran McGeeney was proud of the efforts of his young and injury-ravaged panel and while he would have taken the win at the second opportunity had it come, wasn’t in favour of a replay insisted upon due to a technicality.

“I’m a firm believer that games are won on grass, not on tables or on sheets of paper,” said McGeeney. “When asked whether we wanted to object or not...we had no sort of say in that, we just put our heads down.

“I would hate to see anybody lose a game that they have won on the pitch. That would be my feeling. We fulfilled the fixture. If you had won, you’d have taken it with both hands. Twice it was taken off me as a player (in similar circumstances) but look, it probably papered over a lot of cracks.

“What happened last time wasn’t very professional (by the officials) from beginning to end. We’re here to play football and administrators are here to administrate and referee and stuff like that.”

They irony was that the void game counted for John O’Loughlin’s suspension and the midfielder played a big role in Laois’s win.

Yet the sense was everyone involved was glad it was over.

Scorers for Laois:

C Meredith (1-0); D Conway, R Munnelly (free), J O’Loughlin (0-2 each); P Cahillane (f), N Donoher, D Strong, D Kingston (free), G Walsh (free) (0-1 each).

Scorers for Armagh:

R Grugan (1-2); S Campbell (0-4, 3 frees); C Watters (0-2); M McKenna, B Donaghy (0-1 each).

LAOIS:

G Brody, S Attride, M Timmons, G Hanrahan, D Strong, K Lillis, D O’Connor, B Quigley, J O’Loughlin, C Begley, P Cahillane, N Donoher, C Meredith, D Kingston, D Conway.

Subs:

A Farrell for O’Connor (black card 21), K Meaney for Donoher (47), R Munnelly for Conway (54), G Dillon for Strong (57), G Walsh for Cahillane (64) M Campion for Quigley (70+3).

ARMAGH:

P Morrison, S Heffron, B Donaghy, J McElroy, A Mallon, C Vernon, S Connell, A Findon, S Sheridan, T Kernan, R Grugan, A Forker, M McKenna, S Campbell, P Casey.

Subs:

N Grimley for Sheridan (inj 6), E McVerry for Casey (27), C Watters for Connell (ht), M Shields for McKenna (63).

Referee:

P O’Sullivan (Kerry).

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