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Days of glory a distant memory as Kieran McGeeney's Armagh men make quick exit

Laois 1-10 - Armagh 0-10

By John Campbell

It was perhaps appropriate that the last rites should have been administered to Armagh's Championship aspirations in the morgue-like atmosphere of an almost deserted stadium.

This was all a far cry from the halcyon days of the Noughties when Ulster titles were systematically stockpiled, a glorious acquaintance with All-Ireland glory ecstatically embraced and a reputation for being mean and magnificent cherished as a badge of honour.

Today, manager Kieran McGeeney, the only remaining link from those days of wine and roses, is left to sift through the debris of a season that has thrust his side unceremoniously onto the outer margins of sporting credibility.

A Laois side equipped with the earthy virtues of courage, commitment and staying power but singularly lacking in creativity and flair applied the kiss of death to Armagh's season in the closing moments of a game that never rose above the mediocre at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise.

And in typical fashion, McGeeney did not shirk from telling it like it is.

"We had chances - yes, even goal chances - but we could not take them and that's the simple truth of the matter," he said.

"We turned the ball over far too often even when we were not under pressure and we had opportunities in the third quarter to push on when we had got to within a point of Laois but we were unable to do this."

When Conor Meredith galloped past Mark Shields who was receiving initial treatment for a badly dislocated finger in the 15th minute to thunder home the only goal of the game, it proved a turning point.

McGeeney said: "That we were again without several regular players did not help us but that's the way it goes. It's tough to take but you have to accept it."

"I feel sorry for the boys but they have to take it on the chin and re-focus for next year."

Stefan Campbell's three first-half points had much to do with Armagh being on level terms at the interval, 1-4 to 0-7, as had the dynamism of Andy Mallon and the solid work-rate of Charlie Vernon and Aaron Findon, but when Donie Kingston (2) and David Conway hoisted Laois into a 1-7 to 0-7 lead by the 48th minute, Armagh looked in danger.

But Michael McKenna, Rory Grugan and sub Joe Feeney pegged Laois back at 1-8 to 0-10 only for Jamie Farrell and Ross Munelly to sweep over the added-time points to secure victory.

ARMAGH: P Morrison; S Heffron, B Donaghy, J McElroy; A Mallon, M Shields (0-1), C McKeever; C Vernon, A Findon; T Kernan, R Grugan (0-2, 1f), A Forker (0-1); M McKenna (0-2), S Campbell (0-3f), N Grimley. Subs: J Morgan for M Shields, J Feeney (0-1) for A Forker, G McParland for N Grimley, J Hall for T Kernan, T Kernan for M McKenna.

LAOIS: G Brody; S Attride, M Timmons, G Hanrahan; D Strong (0-1), K Lillis, D O'Connor; B Quigley, K Meaney; N Donoher, P Cahillane (0-1f), C Begley; C Meredith (1-0), D Kingston (0-4, 3f), D Conway (0-1). Subs: A Farrell for D Strong, J Farrell (0-1) for K Meaney, M Campion for N Donoher, R Munnelly (0-1) for D Conway, G Walsh (0-1f) for P Cahillane, G Dillon for C Meredith.

Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).

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