Back on the long road

March 4, 2013

● Allianz football league Division II Armagh 3-8 Longford 2-9

Armagh are back on the long road to recovery with a hard earned 3-8 to 2-9 win over Athletic Ground visitors, Longford in a crucial bottom of the table Allianz Division Two league game.

Armagh picked up their first league point last week following a superb comeback against Wexford. With the U21 players excused until the end of the U21 championship, and injuries ruling out last weekend’s hat-trick, heroes Gavin McParland, Declan Carville, Anto Duffy and Paul McKeown team manager Paul Grimley made a total of 8 changes to the side that started against the Model County.

The return of the Crossmaglen contingent saw Aaron Kernan and Jamie Clarke drafted straight into the starting line-up. Another Ranger Johnny Hanratty was a late addition to the starting 15 in place of Brian Mallon with Cross companions James Morgan and Tony Kernan coming off the bench to lend a hand in this important victory. Of the 3-8 scored by Armagh, the returned Cross contingent contributed 2-5 with Jamie Clarke the star turn particularly in the first half when he scored 1-2 and set up the same.

Armagh scored 3-8 for the second week running, taking their goal tally to 6 but at the troublesome other end of the field Philip MacEvoy has seen his net bulge 5 times, with once again the last line of defence in front of the Armagh custodian culpable. Overall this match was a poor affair with the silky skills of Clarke lighting up a first half which left a dominant Armagh just a score in front 2-5 to 1-5, hard to believe given how easy the visitors defence was opened up time again. The second half was a dogged, dour affair with 17 minutes of it scoreless and Longford going 24 minutes without a score. The Slashers produced a storming finish whittling down a 6 point deficit to one. Longford will feel aggrieved that a genuine penalty claim, with the score standing at 2-7 to 1-7 was ignored by Sligo referee Mick Duffy as Armagh swept downfield, with Tony Kernan netting the loose ball after a Clarke effort had been blocked. That Kernan goal was, in fact, the home sides only score from play in the entire second half. Brother Aaron pointed 2 frees with Tony ending the match scoring by Converting a “45”. Given the amount of changes made by Armagh the coming together of players was always going to produce a dis-jointed performance with the only important thing being the winning result. Longford, for their part, were very limited with Francis McGee (1-2) and Sean McCormack (0-7) their only scorers as their second goal was an unfortunate og, from Armagh substitute Declan McKenna.

Francis McGee opened the scoring as Longford attacked for the first time after 2 minutes. Having already set up a spurned goal chance Jamie Clarke turned a couple of players and scored the opening goal of the match, placing the ball high into the roof of the net. On 9 minutes McKeever delivered to Clarke who offloaded to Stefan Forker who banged in goal number two and it looked as if Longford were in for a long night. But a super pass from Paul Barsden right into the arms of McGee who had eluded his marker Finnegan before shooting past McEvoy. McEvoy saved smartly with his leg to thwart a Barsden goal with Clarke setting up Forker for the Orchards first point, quickly followed by a terrific second from Clarke. Longford top scorer Sean McCormack got the first of his 7 point haul to leave it double score 2-2 to 1-1 some 18 minutes into the half. Dyas benefited from another Clarke link up to stretch the lead but that point was immediately cancelled by McCormack as James Morgan replaced Finnegan in the Armagh defence. A foul on Clarke was converted by Forker before Clarke added his second point to leave it 2-5 to 1-3 on the half hour. Longford finished the half well with two McCormack points, one a free and one from play, leaving a gree flag between the teams as they headed to the dressing rooms.

Longford manager introduced U21 players Colin Smyth and David Barden for the start of the second half with Barsden immediately involved as he was unceremoniously pulled down by Donaghy just outside the box as he homed in on goal. A yellow for the Armagh man as McCormack got the opening score of this half for Longford who would take another 24 minutes before troubling the umpire. Armagh fared not much better during that period with two pointed frees by Aaron Kernan, following fouls on Forker and substitute Brian Mallon making it 2-7 to 1-6 on 56 minutes.

McGee, from play, broke the visitors barren spell which was immediately followed by the no penalty- Tony Kernan goal incident which stretched the home lead to 6 points 3-7 to 1-7. Points six and seven for McCormack followed as he was fouled twice, to close the gap to 4 with as many minutes left on the clock. Declan McKenna stuck his hand out to try and block a pass across goal but only succeeded in knocking the ball past his own goalkeeper which cut the deficit to the minimum 3-7 to 2-9. McKeever relieved the pressure by bursting forward before delivering to Clarke whose attempt was blocked away for a “45” which was slotted between the uprights by Tony Kernan, to close the scoring for a relieved Armagh.

With 3 points on the board Armagh join 4 other teams on that mark. Laois and Louth who drew their match this weekend, Galway drew with table toppers Westmeath (5 pts) and last week’s opponents Wexford who lost 0-19 to 0-10 to Derry. Armagh take on Derry next Saturday night and will be hoping to return home with something to show against the team currently second in the table with 4 points.

The panel of players available to Armagh has got stronger even though they will be without the services of the U21 players who take on Fermanagh in the Preliminary Round on Wed 13 March, with the winner at home to Down on March 20.

Armagh – P McEvoy; G McCooey, J Donnelly, S Finnegan; A Kernan (0-2), B Donaghy, C McKeever; J Lavery, S Harold; K Dyas (0-1), S Campbell, C Rafferty; J Clarke (1-2), J Hanratty, S Forker (1-2). Subs: J Morgan for Finnegan, D McKenna for McCooey, B Mallon for Hanratty, T Kernan (1-1) for Campbell.

Longford – D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, P Foy; M Quinn, K Diffley, S Mulligan; J Keegan, M Brady; B McElvanney, D McElligott, A Rowen; F McGee (2-2), P Barden, S McCormack (0-7). Subs: D Barden for P Barden, C Smith for Diffley, N Mulligan for Keegan.

Referee – M Duffy (Sligo)