Injury time blow leaves Armagh facing relegation battle

Grim expressions: Armagh manager, Paul Grimley and his charges cut forlorn figures in the aftermath of a two point defeat at the hands of Louth in their Allianz NFL Division Two meeting in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night.           Picture: Conor Greenan
Grim expressions: Armagh manager, Paul Grimley and his charges cut forlorn figures in the aftermath of a two point defeat at the hands of Louth in their Allianz NFL Division Two meeting in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night. Picture: Conor Greenan

Armagh 1-12 Louth 1-10

ARMAGH suffered an agonising injury time defeat at the Athletic Grounds last Saturday night as Louth grabbed three points to secure the win.

Boss Paul Grimley will attempt to patch up his side who are ravaged with injuries and still have to face their two toughest fixtures of their National League campaign.

Last Saturday’s defeat against was a major blow to the Orchard county who now face tough games against league leaders Westmeath and Galway and a defeat in either tie could set up the scenario of a stint in the Third Division.

The two points defeat against Louth wasn’t entirely surprising considering that skipper Kieran McKeever, Aaron Kernan and Jamie Clarke were all missing, Grimley’s team played most of the second half with fourteen men following the dismissal of James Donnelly for a second bookable offence and lost new defender James Morgan through injury. With Longford already down to the bottom line Armagh need a win in Westmeath to avoid the prospect of relegation. Former Armagh defender and current Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke speaking after the game believes his side had deserved the win. “We missed a lot of chances tonight and a penalty so I would have to be pleased by the way the players finished the game.”

Armagh boss Grimley thought his team did enough to win the game. “To be honest I thing we did enough to take both points. “Up until injury time it looked good but we were caught on the line. “We will have a very difficult end to our league campaign.”

In front of a subdued and apprehensive crowd despite the absentee list the home side started well when Clan na Gael’s Stefan Campbell knocked over the first point of the game, but the Ulster men found themselves 0-03 to 1-04 behind after the first quarter, the Louth goal coming from Andy McDonnell despite the best efforts of Anto Duffy who almost cleared the ball off the line.

Armagh responded well to the adversity and found the net themselves through Tony Kernan. Gavin McPartland’s point soon after put the sides level which was also the scenario when Louth’s Brian White and Armagh’s Caolin Rafferty scored to leave the teams level at the break.

The home sides uphill battle in the second period came all the more acute when defender James Donnelly was ordered off following a second bookable offence on 44 minutes. Showing great resolve Grimley’s side led the game on the three quarter mark, the major highlights of the second period were great scores from Stefan Forker and midfielder Steven Harold.

Armagh’s injury woes were further compounded when they lost James Lavery at a time when all their subs had been used. With the game in stalemate and ten minutes remaining, Louth’s Brian white blasted a penalty wide of Philip McAvoy’s posts and with just six minutes to go the impressive Steven Harold fisted over to secure a one point lead for his side which was Armagh’s final score of the game.

But Aidan O’Rourke’s team surged three clear in injury time with points from White. Shane Lennon and Rodgers.

The size of the challenge now facing Paul Grimley is enormous, relegation to the third flight certainly wouldn’t be ideal preparation for the Championship, The walking wounded will need to be back on board as soon as possible but positives can be taken from the performances of Steven Harold, James Lavery, Gavin McPartland Stefan Forker and off course Jamie Clarke. Clan’s Stefan Campbell has had his moments but he may be better utilised closer to goals. With Paul Grimley’s settling period well and truly over now the County will need a win away to Westmeath.