Old reliables come good for Armagh

March 06, 2005

Stephen McDonnell
Laois lost their 100 percent record in Division 1B of the NFL when they fell victim to the clinical finishing of Armagh pair Oisin McConville and Stephen McDonnell. Laois 0-17 Armagh 3-10 Armagh were profligate in the early stages of the match and their first four attacks came to nothing. Laois were that bit more efficient in the first quarter and Pauric Clancy put Gary Kavanagh through for a fine opening point. Watched by Dublin manager Paul Caffrey, Laois were obviously determined to hold onto their pole position in the group and with Noel Garvan fielding in brilliant fashion; Laois stretched their lead when Stephen Kelly notched another point for the midlanders. And when Ross Munnelly converted a free to leave three between the teams, it looked as if Armagh were about to be cast adrift. Leading by 0-5 to 0-1 with 21 minutes on the clock, Laois looked confident and capable. The introduction of Tom Kelly as a sub and a hat-trick of points by his twin Stephen added to the Laois sense of self-assuredness and when Pauric Clancy made it 0-6 to 0-1, the alarm bells began to ring for Joe Kernan's men. But cometh the hour, cometh the man and a brilliantly taken goal by Oisin McConville in the 24th minute duly sparked a revival for Armagh who had nine of their 2002 Sam Maguire Cup winning team on board. A Stephen Kernan point added to Armagh's momentum and when Stephen McDonnell converted a free two minutes later, suddenly the teams were level at 1-3 to 0-6. Ross Munnelly showed his class by firing over a clinical point but then disaster struck for the visitors. A high, lobbed ball fell in the Laois square where Fergal Byron, the Laois 'keeper, in attempting to gather the ball was deemed to have fouled Ronan Clarke. Despite Laois claims of a 'square ball' against Clarke, Armagh were awarded a penalty and Oisin McConville left stand-in 'keeper Noel Garvan - a replacement for the dismissed Byron - with no chance from the penalty spot. McConville's precise finish left the sides deadlocked for the second time in the game at 2-3 to 0-9 and added greatly to the tension and excitement of the occasion. The yellow carding of Armagh's Kieran McGeeney and Gary Kavanagh of Laois kept the big crowd on the edge of their seats and points by Ross Munnelly and Martin O'Rourke only added to the tension further. Stephen McDonnell pointed superbly to put his side 2-8 to 0-12 in front but back came Laois with a Ross Munnelly point to keep things boiling over. Aaron Kernan and Pauric Clancy then exchanged points as the game raced to a frenetic finish. Chris Conway then converted a free in the 32nd minute to the delight of the Laois contingent in the big crowd. However the Orchard County had the last laugh with Stephen McDonnell collecting a great pass from Oisin McConville to run in and fire home to the Laois net to seal a terrifically entertaining victory. Laois - F Byron, P McDonald, C Begley, T Donald, K Kelly, D Rooney, P McMahon, P Clancy 0-2, N Garvan, R Munnelly 0-5, C Conway 0-5, M Dunne, S Cooke 0-1, S Kelly 0-3, G Kavanagh 0-1. Subs - T Kelly for McDonald, C Munnelly for Byron, P Lawlor for Kavanagh, C Bergin for Cooke. Armagh - C McKinney, A Mallon, J McNulty, E McNulty, A O'Rourke, K McGeeney, C McKeever, J Toal, M Mackin, M O'Rourke 0-1, J McEntee, G Loughran, S McDonnell 1-5, R Clarke 0-2, S Kernan 0-1. Subs - O McConville 2-0 for Loughran, A Kernan 0-1 for Mallon, K McElvanna for McGeeney, P McGrane for M Mackin, F Bellew for McKeever, P Hearty for McKinney.


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