Armagh run out of fuel

March 18, 2013

Allianz Football League Division II: Armagh 1-10 Louth 1-12

It was the Morgan Fuel sponsored, Armagh managed visitors Louth who finished the stronger with 3 added time points, as Armagh ran out of fuel and numbers to lose out 1-12 to 1-10 at the Athletic Grounds.

Having had to play for over 20 minutes in the second half a man short following the dismissal of James Donnelly to a second yellow Armagh were clinging gallantly onto a slender one point lead as the game entered added on time. The numerical disadvantage had been redressed two minutes earlier following the dismissal of Gerard Hoey, for a second bookable offence but an injury to James Lavery once again deprived Armagh as they had used up all their substitutes. Brian White who had minutes earlier sent a penalty the wrong side of the upright and wide levelled for Louth from a very difficult free. Teenage substitute Ciaran Byrne then gave the visitors the lead with Shane Lennon adding on the insurance point.

The two points collected by Aidan O’Rourke’s men means that they now go above Armagh in the table with the Orchard County slipping to second from bottom ahead of already relegated Longford. Away to Westmeath and at home to Galway are Armagh’s last two games as they fight a desperate battle to avoid successive relegations by dropping to Division Three.

For me the real story of Saturday night’s defeat was the simple fact that while Armagh showed plenty of endeavour and commitment there was no real quality or individual class on display. Management were resigned to being without the services of the mercurial Jamie Clarke for the remainder of the League but did not envisage that team captain Ciaran McKeever, Aaron Kernan and Kevin Dyas starters in the Derry draw at Celtic Park would along with Gary McCooey be out with injury for the visit of the Wee County. Louth themselves were without midfield talisman Paddy Keenan and the undoubted individual brilliance of some of the aforementioned was clearly missed in what was a substandard contest in comparison to the fare of the previous week

Finnian Moriarty, Anto Duffy, Stefan Campbell and Tony Kernan are the four men who were brought into the starting team by manager Paul Grimley. Defenders Gary O’Hare and John O’Brien along with midfielder Keenan were out of the selected Louth team as O’Rourke drafted in Conor McGuinness, Pat Raft and Ronan Carroll.

Following a closely contested opening 35 minutes, in which the sides were level on 5 occasions they went to the dressing room on 1-5 apiece and all still to play for in the second half. Stefan Campbell gave Armagh the lead with the game’s opening point but Adrian Reid soon equalised. Four minutes in the impressive Declan McKenna edged the home side back in front but it was short lived as Shane Lennon levelled. A scoreless 9 minutes followed before Louth took the lead for the first time as Brian Donnelly got on the score sheet. On the quarter hour a Gavin McParland free restored parity

The visitors then looked to have gained a firm grip on proceedings as they opened up a four point lead. Firstly Derek Crilly pointed then Andy McDonnell scrambled in a goal in the 22nd minute to give the visitors a 1-4 to 0-3 lead. The daylight between the sides lasted all of 3 minutes as a totally unmarked Tony Kernan calmly slotted home a three pointer following a Forker pass. McDonnell blasted a goal chance wide at the other end followed by a very bad wide from Darren Clarke as Louth tried to respond to the home goal. Mark Shields came into the Orchard defence for the injured Morgan as Tony Kernan placed Gavin McParland for his second point of the half. Louth regained the lead as Cooley man Brian White converted a “45” and James Donnelly picked up a yellow card. In added time Hanratty and Kernan combined to set up a levelling point for Caolan Rafferty which left it 1-5 each at the short whistle.

Two minutes after the restart a Stefan Forker free pointed Armagh back in front only for sub Derek Maguire to mark his entrance with a point from his first touch of the ball. As Armagh prepared to take a free for a foul on Hanratty referree Eddie Kinsalla went back to book Donnelly for a jersey tug in an earlier Louth move and the home side were down to fourteen. The consolation was that McParland converted the free to make it 1-7 to 1-6 in favour of Armagh with 25 minutes to go. Malachi’s man Kevin Rogers levelled things for the seventh time but it was a reply from a placed ball by Forker which surprisingly was his last piece of action as he got the bent finger replaced by Brian Mallon. Armagh then doubled their lead as Stephen Harold fisted a point following good work by Rafferty and Kernan. Rogers cut the deficit to the minimum with McEvoy brilliantly denying him a goal with a great save but Lennon flicked the loose ball over the crossbar for the equalizer 1-9 each. Louth pressed but notched a couple of wides with Armagh sub Kieran Toner on for Hanratty doing likewise at the other end.

Brendan Donaghy received a yellow as he hauled back Lennon to give Louth a penalty. It looked as if it might be the home teams night as White drilled his low shot the wrong side of the upright and then improving with every outing Armagh midfielder Harold bagged his second point to give a 1-10 to 1-9 lead with 5 minutes to go. As already mentioned it was the visitors who had more fuel in the tank to mount a match winning finale. Louth substitutes made more of an impact on the game than the four second half ones used by Armagh as the withdrawal of both Forker and Hanratty left them bereft of ball winners.

There is no doubt that the key to next Sunday at Cusack Park, Mullingar will be if Armagh can get any of their walking wounded back in action. Toner came on as a sub but it looks as if Lavery will be out and Morgan is also a doubt. Dyas, Kernan and McKeever will be vital to the cause.  How the u-21 team fares against Down on Wednesday night at the Athletic Grounds will determine their availability. Armagh need two wins to be sure of survival but it could all come down to a last day head to head with Galway for divisional security.

Armagh – P McEvoy; J Morgan, B Donaghy, J Donnelly; F Moriarty, D McKenna (0-1), A Duffy; J Lavery, S Harold (0-2); C Rafferty (0-1), J Hanratty, S Campbell (0-1); T Kernan (1-0), S Forker (0-2, 1f), G McParland (0-3, 2f). Subs: M Shields for Morgan, B Loughran for Duffy, B Mallon for Forker, K Toner for Hanratty, S Clarke for Campbell.

Louth – N Gallagher; C McGuinness, D Finnegan, G Hoey; P Rath, D Crilly (0-1), A Reid (1-1); R Carroll, B Donnelly (0-1); A McDonnell, M Brennan, B White (0-2, 1f); D Clarke, S Lennon (0-3), K Rogers (0-2, 1f). Subs: D Maguire (0-1) for Clarke, J McEneaney for McGuinness, C Byrne (0-1) for Rogers.

Referee – E Kinsella.