Battling point a boost for Armagh

Derry's Emmet McGuckin and Armagh goalkeeper Philip McEvoy. in action. Photo Lorcan Doherty /
Derry's Emmet McGuckin and Armagh goalkeeper Philip McEvoy. in action. Photo Lorcan Doherty /

Derry 0 16 Armagh 0 16

ARMAGH took another tentative step towards securing their Second Division future when they landed a share of the spoils against Derry at Celtic Park last Saturday night.

While the point has pushed the Oak Leaf county to the top of the Division, Armagh will need a win against Louth this weekend to avoid the prospect of a relegation dogfight in tough games against Galway and Westmeath which provides a challenging end to the campaign.

The Ulster rivals fought out a titanic battle at Celtic Park in a game which neither side deserved to lose. County boss Paul Grimley was delighted to get the point. ”We started well, but at one stage during the second half Derry seemed to be taking control, but the lads showed great fight. Celtic Park isn’t an easy place to get league points so at least we got something out of the game.”

The Armagh manager is attempting to build up a head of steam as his team prepare for the Ulster Championship opener against Cavan at Breffni Park in June, In the interim period however the Orchard county will have to compete without the services of ace striker Jamie Clarke who has announced travel plans which will rule him out of the latter part of the league campaign.

Clarke has been a revelation since returning from club football. Against Derry he floated over the equalising score when normal free taker Aaron Kernan was forced to leave the action through injury.

Paul Grimley continues to gain admirers, many of whom believed that he should have been installed as county boss a long time ago. Grimley had rested hat-trick hero Gavin McPartland for the recent game against Longford but with the pressure off the player bounced back to hit three points.

Against Derry the visitors took a four point lead through scores from McPartland 0-02, Jamie Clarke and Kevin Dyas. Derry pulled themselves back into the game and took control with Charlie Kielt, Lee Kennedy, James Kielt and Emmett McGuckian all finding their range. In fact, the home side were a point in front at the break when McGuckian and James Keilt at the double were answered by Armagh points from Aaron Kernan and Stefan Forker.

The visitors hit a purple patch in the third quarter to go four points in front, scores from Kernan Forker and a great strike from Steven Harold put them two in front and two further strikes from Aaron Kernan appeared to put Paul Grimley’s side in control of the game. A potent Derry strikeforce however were not going to be undone and they responded with points from Kennedy, Dan Heaveron and two points from Barry McGolderick.

When James Kielt put Derry in front his team looked to be destined for both points, but Jamie Clarke had other ideas and the Crossmaglen player equalised with a great finish from the outside of his left boot. In a dramatic finish Derry’s charlie Kielt had the opportunity to win the game but his late effort fell to the left of the posts.

Paul Grimley will be hoping niggling injuries to Kieran M Keever and Aaron Kernan clear up for Saturday nights game against Louth, The Leinster men will be relegated if they fail to secure a win against Armagh, a scenario which will add more spice to the Division Two clash. A victory for Armagh will relieve the pressure on the county’s management as they prepare for the Championship.