Portlaoise journey poses tougher test for Armagh

You’d have to scroll back through the archives to 2014 to find the last time Armagh defeated Laois, who for some time were seen as the Orchard County’s bogey team.

The sides have clashed four times since then, once in 2017 while meeting on three occasions in 2016, including that infamous ‘rematch’ in round one of the qualifiers, as Laois had played more subs than they were permitted to use.

Still, even with the chance to rectify their mistakes of the first day, Armagh crashed out of the Championship by a single point, 1-11 to 1-10, although giving an improved performance.

Armagh will hope to banish those bad memories of Portlaoise this weekend and continue in the winning spirit they found themselves in against Cavan last Saturday evening.

The sides last met in round two of the 2017 National League, Laois once again scraping through by the minimum of margins, although the sides were battling in Division Three back then and Laois found themselves at the foot of the table by the conclusion of the campaign.

Kieran McGeeney’s men gave a blistering display to demolish a depleted Cavan outfit last weekend and showed serious levels of ruthlessness, opening up a 13 point lead by the time the referee called for the ball.

Conor Turbitt stole the show racking up 1-6 and that’s sure to have caught the attention of the new Laois boss, and former Kerry midfielder Mike Quirke, who will have plans made to derail Turbitt’s good form.

As an attacking unit, Armagh were fantastic the last day out, moving the ball at pace and with great control, getting seven players on the score sheet. Their defence was untested and that’s sure to change on Saturday night.

Although Laois must prepare without the star quality of the Kingston brothers, who have opted off the panel this year, they proved against Roscommon that their attack still holds some talent.

Evan O’Carroll gave a Man of the Match display; hitting 1-6 (1-3 from play) while Kieran Lillis, stationed at full forward, posted 1-3. Ross Munnelly is still involved in the team, and came on to kick 0-2 the last day out.

Laois made great use of the attacking mark in round one, scoring four points throughout the contest, and due to Armagh’s lack of height in the full back line, we could see the home side implement this tactic.

Last season, Armagh let leads slip against both Kildare and Clare to dent their promotion hopes and Laois showed last weekend that, given the opportunity, they will pounce on a smash-and-grab opportunity.

With Roscommon ahead by 5 points and the game in addition time, O’Carroll and Lillis both rattled the net to earn their side a point, a stat that is unlikely to have flown under Kieran McGeeney’s radar.

There is plenty of positivity surrounding Armagh’s progress at the minute and they won’t want to see their performance levels wane this weekend. A tough test is what they need after they breezed through the Cavan contest and Laois are sure to offer a closer examination, but Armagh should have enough to see it through and pick up another two points.

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