Kieran McGeeney relaxed but Laois raise pressure on Armagh

Armagh 0-15 Laois 1-13: Kieran McGeeney presented himself as a ‘glass half full’ type of guy after watching Armagh fall to a league defeat which leaves them facing a difficult spring.
Kieran McGeeney relaxed but Laois raise pressure on Armagh

Trailing by seven points in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night, the home side fought back to within a point on two occasions but couldn’t draw level, and are already staring at relegation from Division Two.

With four attritional Ulster derbies still to come, they could be in trouble, but the Armagh manager seemed relaxed about the situation.

If a difficult spring leads to a successful summer, then so be it. “Without being disrepectful, this (Meath and Laois) was the easier part of the league,” said McGeeney.

“Our last three games are Derry, Tyrone, and Galway who people would count as the top three teams in our division. But the plus side is you’ll go into the championship knowing exactly where you stand. Last year we walked through Division Three and got hit by Donegal who put us firmly in our place. We will know our place before the summer this time.”

Although his players missed simple kicks and struck the woodwork on a few occasions, McGeeney preferred to focus on the bigger picture. Some big names are gone and some quality is missing, but he’s more than happy with the committed souls he’s got.

“The job I’ve been given is to change the culture in Armagh, to try to get us to think differently. I’ve a bunch of fellas who really want to play for their county and that’s the big thing. Maybe for a while we went down the road of having players who hadn’t their whole heart and soul here. I don’t think you can exist at the top level unless you have that.

“Hopefully we’re going in the right direction but we still need to pick up points if we want to stay in the division.”

Both Armagh and Laois lost their opening league fixtures and desperately needed points before the two-week break in the campaign.

Both were under-strength too, and as relieved Laois manager Mick Lillis acknowledged afterwards, it was a game that could have gone either way. Paul Cahillane’s 13th minute penalty helped Laois to a 1-7 to 0-6 interval lead and they stretched that to 1-10 to 0-6 after 47 minutes before Armagh fought back with Stefan Campbell and Micheal McKenna leading the charge.

But their effort fell just short, with Evan O’Carroll and Donie Kingston nailing difficult kicks to halt Armagh’s momentum.

Having lost by eight points to Galway a week earlier, this was a decent response by Laois, who finished with 14 men following James Farrell’s two yellow cards. Goalkeeper Graham Brody pulled off a superb one-handed save from Colm Watters in the first half and Lillis was delighted to be leaving Armagh with two league points.

“It was one of those games that could have gone either way. They had a few misses, our keeper made a great save, and little incidents like that turn games and turn managerial careers maybe.”

Scorers for Armagh:

S Campbell 0-7 (4f), M McKenna 0-3, E Rafferty 0-1, A Forker 0-1, G McParland 0-1 (f), S Heffron 0-1, N Grimley 0-1.

Scorers for Laois:

P Cahillane 1-2 (pen, 2f), D Kingston 0-5 (3f), E O’Carroll 0-3 (one ‘45’), M Campion 0-1, N Donoher 0-1, G Walsh 0-1 (f).

ARMAGH:

M McNeice; S Heffron, C Vernon, R McCaughey; S Forker, A Forker, M Shields; A Findon, S Sheridan; S Campbell, M McKenna, N McConville; C Watters, C O’Hanlon, G McParland.

Subs:

E Rafferty for McConville (HT), E McVerry for McParland (46), N Grimley for Sheridan (50), J McElroy for S Forker (60), O MacIomhair for Watters (62), S Connell for McCaughey (68).

LAOIS:

G Brody; R Kehoe, M Timmons, D Seale; D Strong, P Cotter, G Dillon; K Lillis, K Meaney; J Farrell, D Kingston, N Donoher; P Cahillane, E O’Carroll, G Walsh.

Subs:

M Campion for Meaney (17), A Farrell for Cotter (BC, 33), D O’Connor for Strong (52), D O’Reilly for Walsh (55), R O’Connor for Campion (58).

Referee:

Barry Cassidy (Derry).

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