McKeever lets football do talking for Armagh
Having been in the headlines all week, Ciaran McKeever wasn't about to stop now. The Armagh captain, who was only cleared hours earlier to play in last night's derby, inspired his side to victory after scoring an equaliser in the last minute of an absorbing tie.
Brave rookie Michael Stevenson added the finishing touch with a free deep in stoppage-time, but it was McKeever's presence that snatched a win from a game that ebbed and flowed in the second half.
Down will be sick they didn't get a draw at least. They missed two late chances but this was a much sharper, focused Armagh side than had appeared in recent weeks.
The teams traded frees in the early stages but Armagh looked more convincing, stringing together some nice sweeping moves and playing with a real purpose. They opened up a 0-4 to 0-2 lead in the 11th minute, midfielder Peter Carragher scoring the game's first point from play.
Stoppages and injury-enforced switches (to Carragher and his replacement Rory Grugan) took the wind out of Armagh's sails and it was Down who bossed the last quarter of a first half, which lasted 42 minutes, to go from 0-4 to 0-6 behind to 0-9 to 0-6 in front.
Armagh needed a response before half-time and got it from youngster Stevenson, who converted two long-range frees to leave the home side trailing by just 0-9 to 0-8. Armagh then went ahead when Brian Mallon converted a penalty for a footblock on Stevenson in the 46th minute.
It was nip and tuck in a frantic final 20 minutes with Down edging their way back with points from Ambrose Rodgers, Dan Gordon and Daniel Hughes.
Mark Poland put Down ahead -- but McKeever wasn't to be denied and he inspired Armagh in a thrilling finish.
Scorers -- Armagh: M Stevenson 0-6 (6f); B Mallon 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-2f); P Carragher, F Moriarty, D McKenna, C Rafferty, C McKeever 0-1 each. Down: A Carr 0-6 (6f); D Hughes, M Poland, E McCartan 0-2 each; A Rogers 0-2 (1 '45'); K McKernan, D Gordon 0-1 each
Armagh: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, D McKenna; K Dyas, C McKeever, F Moriarty; P Carragher, C Vernon; P Duffy, BJ Padden, A Duffy; C Rafferty, B Mallon, M Stevenson. Subs: R Grugan for Carragher (23), D Lavery for Grugan (33), J Lavery for Padden (h-t)
Down: B McVeigh; D McCartan, C Garvey, A Brannigan; N McParland, D Gordon, K McKernan; A Rogers, K King; D Hughes, M Poland, A Carr; C Maginn, E McCartan, C Laverty. Subs: B Coulter for Maginn (43), B O'Reilly for E McCartan (54), K Quinn for Brannigan (60) A McArdle for King (60)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)
Sunday Indo Sport