Mike Quirke’s Laois footballers recorded their first win of the campaign when they emerged with six-points to spare over Armagh at MW Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, on Saturday evening.
Laois held their Ulster counterparts to just two points in the opening half, one free and one from play, while kicking eight of their own across a five-player spread to go in with a commanding six-point lead at the interval.
Armagh surpassed their first-half tally within four minutes of the restart and although much-improved in the second-half, Laois always had them at arm’s length.
A late comeback in their opener against Roscommon last weekend salvaged a share of the points at the Hyde to give Laois a strong platform for their Division 2 ambitions, and this Round 2 victory over Armagh leaves them sitting at the top of the table with three points from a possible four.
The result is sure to sober McGeeney’s charges following their impressive 13-point dismantling of a depleted Cavan side, and their display in Portlaoise will leave the Orchard men with plenty to work on in the weeks ahead.
Evan O’Carroll and Rian O’Neill got the game underway with an early exchange of placed balls before the home side slotted the next two through Michael Keogh and Mark Barry to give them a lead they would hold through to the final whistle.
Midfielder Niall Grimley fisted over 20 minutes into the proceedings for Armagh’s first from play, but last of the half, as wayward shooting and Laois’ dominance kept the visitors at bay.
Laois galloped towards the break with O’Carroll converting two frees, Kieran Lillis a point, and the full-back-line duo of Brian Byrne and Mark Timmons notching a point apiece to see the O’Moore men hold a six-point lead.
Fresh from picking-up a Sigerson Cup medal with DCU midweek, Mark Barry reopened the scoring from a close-in free. Armagh displayed a real appetite in the initial minutes of the half and duly hit their purple patch to kick the next three.
O’Neill accounted for the three points, all coming from frees, the last of which was a classy outside-of-the-boot strike from the 45-metre line to narrow the Laois lead to three points.
Laois weathered the brief storm and went on to see O’Carroll (2) and Barry swap points with O’Neill and Jarlath Óg Burns to push their lead out to four by the 50th minute.
A black card for Eoin Lowry reduced Laois to 14-men and Armagh instantly used their numerical advantage to trouble the Laois rearguard, but veteran full-back Timmons was there to make a last-ditch clearance off the Laois line.
Armagh managed two frees from substitute Jamie Clarke in the final minutes as Laois closed out the game with Barry adding four more points, three frees, in the last quarter to finish as top-scorer on the night and seal the win.
Laois will go into next weekend’s home tie against Cavan with confidence as they look to solidify their strong start to Division 2, while Kieran McGeeney is set to renew rivalries with his former side, Kildare, at the Athletic Grounds.
Laois scorers: M Barry 0-7 (6f), E O'Carroll 0-5 (3f), M Keogh, B Byrne, K Lillis, M Timmons 0-1 each.
Armagh scorers: R O’Neill 0-5 (3f, one ’45), J Clarke 0-2 (frees), N Grimley, C Turbitt, J Og Burns 0-1 each.
Laois: N Corbet; B Byrne, M Timmons, G Hanrahan; S O’Flynn, R Pigott, P O’Sullivan; J O’Loughlin, K Lillis; S Byrne, M Barry, E Lowry; M Keogh, E O’Carroll, C Murphy.
Subs: T Collins for Keogh (46), D O'Connor for S Byrne (60), R Munnelly for Murphy (66), C Healy for B Byrne (69), Darragh Connolly for O'Carroll (70).
Armagh: B Hughes; A McKay, B Donaghy, P Burns; G McCabe, C O'Neill, S Sheridan; O O'Neill, N Grimley; C Turbitt, M Shields, C Cumiskey; S Campbell, R O'Neill, J Duffy.
Subs: P Hughes for Shields (28), J Og Burns for Duffy (HT), J McElroy for G McCabe (46), J Hall for Cumiskey (56), J Clarke for O O’Neill (60).
Ref: Jerome Henry (Mayo)