Laois kept their hopes of staying in Division 1 alive on Sunday last with a win over Armagh. This was far from a classic, and only for the four or five top class saves from Eoin Culliton, Laois could have been well beaten.
Armagh got through on goals with ease and will regret the fact that they were not a little sharper in taking their chances. They played all the football on Sunday, even without their Crossmaglen contingent, and even though they played the second half with fourteen men, they will still feel that they should have come away with a result.
Laois did hit 1-15, but looked very laboured at times, and they were turned over too easily on numerous occasions due to fact that they tried, on almost every occasion, to walk the ball from one end of the field to the other. This gave Armagh ample opportunity to get back and then turn defence into attack, which they did, and on another day they could have had at least four goals to show for this.
If Laois do not do something quickly about playing this style of football, then against better teams we are going to be punished. We have Kerry away this weekend, but we have learnt little since the Donegal game, where we moved the ball at ease and allowed some of our better forwards to express themselves. Instead, we have gone back into our shells and have persisted with a style of football that was successful ten years ago.
Teams have moved on from then, even Tyrone, who would have gotten the blame for this style of play, are now reverting to a faster paced game, where getting the ball to the danger area as fast as you can is the aim. They are also doing this in a way that exerts as little energy as possible.
In contrast, Laois looked so laboured on Sunday. We had forwards receiving the ball on our own 21 yard line with no options but to try and walk the ball out. This is hard work and to do this for seventy minutes is going to drain you, and as you could tell from the reaction of the crowd on Sunday, it is also very hard to watch.
People are commenting that we are not strong enough at the moment, but it is something I would not agree with. To be able to play this style of football is the same as playing rugby at a very high level, where you constantly have to be able to take hit after hit. There is no need for it though when you can move the ball with thirty and forty yard passes at speed, and it does not use up half as much energy, and so it is then easier to keep this play up over the seventy minutes.
You can be sure that this is what Kerry will do next Sunday, and we all know what style they expect Laois to bring, so why not try to surprise them?
On a different matter, something that was very apparent on Sunday last was the fact that there was a double header in O’Moore Park, but the stand was only half-full at best, and this was including Armagh supporters and whatever Clare supporters.
This is something that the county board have got to look at. I don’t think it is the price issue, as this has been addressed. I spoke to people in the week coming up to the game and asked if they would be going along, and these would be die-hard Laois people, but their answer was ‘No’. When asked why, price was not the issue, it was the fact that they did not enjoy watching Laois play anymore. We have a serious problem on the horizon, and we can’t ignore it.