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McGeeney rues sluggish start as Orchard men lose by single point

Laois 1-11 Armagh 1-10

By Mark Jackson

Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney believes that the manner in which his side was reintroduced to the Championship, played a significant part in Saturday's defeat against Laois.

Despite a heroic fightback in the second half, where they came from seven points down to take the lead, Armagh were yet again left wondering what might have been, after scoring only a paltry point in the opening half.

Played in Portlaoise, Laois played a much more direct style and Conor Meredith's goal on 33 minutes gave the O'Moore men a 1-05 to 0-01 lead at the break. Miceal McKenna was Armagh's sole first half scorer in a game where Pearse Casey, Stephen Sheridan and Sean Connell made Championship debuts and the Orchard side looked out of sorts.

"I don't know whether it was the way we entered the competition or not but for the first half we were just dead," said McGeeney. "Our shot selection, our thought process seemed fairly poor but we had a good chat at half-time and we changed a few things up and into more of a running game with Rory Grugan inside and it worked.

"It is annoying but I couldn't fault the boys. Few teams will go out and put in a second half performance like that considering what they were staring into.

"I am very proud of every one of them, they probably deserved a wee bit out of it."

And the second half was a complete contrast to the first as with Grugan positioned at the edge of the square and seasoned campaigners such as Charlie Vernon, Brendan Donaghy and Andy Mallon bolstering the attack, Armagh simply dropped the shackles and went for the jugular.

Substitute Colm Watters and Grugan kick-started the comeback with points and a Stefan Campbell free closed the gap. Laois' John O'Loughlin replied with a point, but momentum was with Armagh as clusters of orange surged forward. Another Campbell converted free gave the Orchard men a glimmer of hope and then came Grugan's goal.

Grugan tagged on a point to level the score with only 49 minutes gone and further scores from Campbell and Watters put Armagh into the lead and Armagh could have been out of sight but Crossmaglen's Tony Kernan struck the side-netting with the goal begging.

Laois' Ross Munnelly levelled the score with a brace of points and Cahillane and Donaghy traded scores as tensions cranked up.

The Orchard side's hopes were dampened when Aaron Findon received a red card.

O'Loughlin stretched Laois' lead and although Campbell narrowed the gap his last effort fell agonisingly short and the O'Moore men held on for victory.

Laois: G Brody; M Timmons, G Hanrahan, S Attride; D Strong (0-01), K Lillis, D O'Connor; B Quigley, J O'Loughlin (0-02); C Begley, P Cahillane (0-01, 0-01f), N Donoher (0-01); C Meredith (1-00), D Kingston (0-01, 0-01f), D Conway (0-02). Subs: A Farrell for O'Connor (BC), K Meaney for Donoher, R Munnelly (0-02, 0-01f) for Conway, G Dillon for Strong, G Walsh (0-01, 0-01f) for Cahillane, M Campion for Quigley.

Armagh: P Morrison; S Heffron, B Donaghy (0-01), J McElroy; S Connell, A Mallon, C Vernon; S Sheridan, A Findon; A Forker, R Grugan (1-02), T Kernan; M McKenna (0-01), P Casey, S Campbell (0-04, 0-03f). Subs: N Grimley for Sheridan, E McVerry for Casey, C Watters (0-02) for Connell, M Shields for McKenna.

Referee: P O'Sullivan (Kerry).

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