Sunday 18 February 2018

Clarke majesty helps Armagh over winning line

Armagh 3-8 Longford 2-9

All good things come to those who wait.

Armagh manager Paul Grimley had to show patience to gain his first win in charge, but now the green shoots of progress have suddenly become more clearly visible – though a nail-biting two-point success against an honest Longford outfit cannot be construed as a passport to success.

"It's tremendous to get this win. I wanted the team to build on their second-half performance against Wexford and they did just that. We made it hard for ourselves at times and, to be fair to Longford, they fought tooth and nail," observed Grimley.

This Orchard county side are still only in a low gear, though.

"While we are happy to take the points, we will absorb the lessons as well. We have stiff challenges ahead of us and I would hope that these will help to make this group better players. The only way they will improve is by playing against quality sides," added Grimley.

The positives after hurdling Glen Ryan's enthusiastic midlanders were obvious. Jamie Clarke's sublime overall contribution, James Lavery's aerial ability, Aaron Kernan's calm authority and Kieran McKeever's solid leadership underpinned an impressive team ethic.

By the ninth minute Clarke had provided telling evidence that he is a truly great forward by snapping up one goal and making another for Stefan Forker before going on to stamp his imprint on virtually every foray his team mounted.

Francis McGee's 10th-minute goal threw Longford a lifeline and Sean McCormack's frees kept the visitors in touch at 2-5 to 1-5 by half-time.

But when the Kernan clan wielded their influence after the break, Longford, for whom McGee and McCormack were the only scorers, were caught short despite a heroic finish.

Aaron Kernan's two points from frees proved the precursor to a 57th-minute goal from his brother Tony, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes.

When courageous Longford bagged another goal through McGee in the 67th minute, which complemented a further brace of McCormack points, it was Tony who coolly slotted over an injury-time '45' that reduced the palpitations within the ranks of the home supporters.

Man of the match: J Clarke (Armagh)

SCORERS – Armagh: S Forker 1-2 (1f), J Clarke 1-1, T Kernan 1-1 (1 '45'), A Kernan (2f), K Dyas 0-2 each. Longford: F McGee 2-2, S McCormack 0-7 (6f)

Armagh –P McEvoy 7; G McCooey 6, J Donnelly 6, S Finnegan 6; A Kernan 7, B Donaghy 7, C McKeever 8; J Lavery 7, S Harold 6; K Dyas 7 S Campbell 6, C Rafferty 6; J Clarke 9 , S Forker 7, J Hanratty 7. Subs: J Morgan 5 for Finnegan (25), D McKenna 5 for McCooey (46), T Kernan 7 for Hanratty (50), B Mallon 5 for Campbell (50)

Longford –D Sheridan 7; D Brady 6, B Gilleran 6, P Foy 6; M Quinn 7, K Diffley 6, S Mulligan 7; J Keegan 7, M Brady 6; B McElvanney 7 , D McElligot 7, A Rowen 6; F McGee 8, P Barden 7, S McCormack 8. Subs: D Barden 6 for P Barden (half-time), N Mulligan 6 for Keegan (57)

Ref – M Duffy (Sligo)

Irish Independent

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