Armagh hold off late Longford rally

Guess who's back?: Longford's Dermot Brady attempts to get to grips with the inter-county return of Armagh's Jamie Clarke during their NFL Div Two meeting at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday evening.              Picture: Conor Greenan
Guess who's back?: Longford's Dermot Brady attempts to get to grips with the inter-county return of Armagh's Jamie Clarke during their NFL Div Two meeting at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday evening. Picture: Conor Greenan

Armagh 3-08 Longford 2-09

ARMAGH matched their total of three goals and eight points which they hit in their previous game against Wexford when they beat Longford at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night, but on this occasion it was the visitors who staged a fightback which narrowly failed at the finish.

Paul Grimley’s, side who secured their first win of the season, will now face their biggest challenge so far when they travel to Celtic Park for Saturday’s Division Two encounter against Derry.

Notwithstanding events over the past two weekends this particular Orchard crop have a long way to go to be in the position to challenge for provincial honours, Rangers men Jamie Clarke and Tony and Aaron Kernan certainly made a difference against Longford and while the side are attempting to build up a head of steam, this weekends game against Brian McIvor’s side will throw new light on the county’s short term ambitions.

Last Saturday’s victory was full of controversy, the Connaught men appeared to have a stone wall penalty turned down minutes before Tony Kernan followed up to hit the net after Longford keeper Sheridan had parried an initial effort from Brian Mallon, Glen Ryan’s side who got off to a bad start were making a fist of things and had brought the margin back to three points ten minutes from time. were facing a

deficit of six and an uphill struggle.

Before Armagh hit their first point they had found the Longford net on two occasions. Jamie Clarke jinked inside his two markers to blast the ball past the Longford keeper and the Rangers player minutes later put Maghery’s Stefan Forker in for the second goal. In fact Clarke was involved in almost all of Armagh’s scores and team boss Paul Grimley sang his praises after the game.

”If there was a transfer system in place every county would be looking to buy Jamie Clarke,” said Grimley.

Armagh picked up four yellow cards on the night which were allocated to James Morgan, Brendan Donaghy, James Donnelly and Ciaran McKeever an indication perhaps of the sides determination during the Division 2 game.

Despite leading by six points at one stage the home side failed to score for a 25 minute period in the second half during which Longford rallied to leave just two between them at the finish. For the visitors Francie McGee was their main threat up front and wing forward Sean McCormack was his sides top scorer with seven points.

Should Armagh gain a victory in Celtic Park this weekend they could come into the reckoning for provincial honours, Paul Grimley will be attempting to build a side which are capable of peaking in the summer, so a defeat in the Maiden city should be avoided at all costs.

The Armagh boss at the start of his reign appealed to the fans to be patient, The Pearse Ogs man rested hat-trick hero Gavin McPartland against Longford, the party line suggested the Ballymacnab player was injured. It could be a clever tactic moving the limelight away from the player which may have long term rewards.