National Football League Division Two
Laois v Armagh
Saturday, MW Hire O’Moore Park, 6pm
ARMAGH’S promotion hopes look set to be severely tested this Saturday as they travel to O’Moore Park to take on their bogey side Laois.
This will be the fifth meeting of the two counties in the Kieran McGeeney era, and the score currently reads 4-0 (sort of) in favour of the Leinster side.
They picked up one-point wins in league encounters at the Athletic Grounds in 2016 and ’17 while there was also the unusual two-game Qualifier saga four years ago.
Laois won the first game by a goal but the result was voided as the victors had made too many substitutes. The result was the same the second day out though leaving McGeeney chasing his first win against the county – although he did taste victory whilst acting as head coach under Paul Grimley in 2014.
The Orchard fans will travel in confidence though after watching their side decimate Cavan 2-18 to 1-8 in round one. In truth, the winning margin could have been more.
It was all the more impressive considering that they were without regular forward starters Jamie Clarke, Aidan Nugent and Andrew Murnin while Jemar Hall was only fit for a cameo from the bench.
Team coach Jim McCorry said that trying to select six forwards was proving to be a massive headache, but one that they welcomed.
“I know a lot was written about them (Cavan) having players missing but when you actually count the number of players we were missing…
“Andrew Murnin, Jamie Clarke, Jemar Hall only came on in that game.
“Ryan Kennedy, Paul Hughes, Aaron McKay, Jarly Og (Burns) only came on. Aidan Nugent. They were all starting championship players last year.
“We didn’t say too much about it but we were badly missing as well.
“The guys who came in stepped up to the plate.”
Clarke had a three-game suspension overturned on the Thursday before the Cavan game. He had picked up a sanction from a recent challenge match with Carlow, as did Aaron McKay. It is understood that the Dromintee defender was only facing a one-game ban so he should come back into the reckoning for the Laois encounter.
A win there would leave McGeeney’s side right in the promotion hunt even at this early stage.
McCorry said that they weren’t looking that far ahead, especially given their inability to close out games that they dominated last season.
“You don’t want to be at the bottom looking downwards, you want to be at the top looking downwards,” said the affable Rostrevor resident.
“Last year we should have had points earlier on in games. We got our first two points later on and that really wasn’t good when you consider that we had Kildare beaten and we had Clare beaten.
“It’s nice to get two points but its only two points. All our focus was on one game, at home to Cavan.
“It’s the old adage of coaches talking about one game at a time but that’s the way it is.
“The next time against Laois is going to be equally as hard, and it’s away. Games with Laois and ourselves are always hard, physical encounters and it’s going to be a tough two points to get.”
McCorry also said that he has no fears regarding the hype that will undoubtedly surround Conor Turbitt after his scintillating league debut.
The Clann Eireann hit 1-6, the first point coming after an incredible mark, to go along with the 2-6 that he scored in the side’s two Dr McKenna Cup games.
McCorry said that ‘Turbo’ had good examples to follow in the form of Rian O’Neill and Burns.
“Rian and Jarly Og became household names very quickly last year and that had to be managed as well,” he said.
“In fairness to the guys their feet were firmly on the ground and they didn’t let it get to them.
“When they were playing poorly in games they came back strong on it and when they had good games they were very level-headed about their performances and what they were able to improve on the next time.
“To be honest I don’t know if it’s the breeding of these young guys.
“’Turbo’ is the exact same, a very grounded player. He is very easy to work with it.
“He has great coaches with the club at Clann Eireann, you can see the work that has been done at underage with him.”
Laois will also be in buoyant form after their smash-and-grab draw against Roscommon last weekend.
They were six points down in additional time but goals from Evan O’Carroll and Kieran Lillis earned a valuable point in the Hyde.
That’s a real boost for a side that enjoys their meetings with Armagh. This is set to be a massive test for the Orchard county.