Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Armagh boss seeks growth following first win

Armagh 3-8 Longford 2-9

Everything comes to those who wait.

Armagh manager Paul Grimley may have had to exercise patience to gain his first win in charge but now that the ice has been broken the green shoots of progress have suddenly become more clearly visible.

A nail-biting two-point survival mission against an honest if errant Longford outfit cannot, of course, be construed as a passport to even the merest hint of flirtation with success.

But it has already served to cement morale, reinvigorate a squad for whom self-belief was becoming an ailing concept and provide Grimley with further impetus to proceed with his bold gamble of focusing on the future rather than the present.

"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.

The learning process for this reconstructed orchard county side is still only in 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 quality sides," said Grimley.

The positives in hurdling Glen Ryan's enthusiastic midlanders were brought into sharp focus.

Jamie Clarke's sublime overall contribution, James Lavery's aerial ability, Aaron Kernan's calm authority and Kieran McKeever's solid leadership underpinned a team ethic that, while not always cohesive, never faltered in terms of effort. By the ninth minute Clarke had provided telling evidence that he is one of the truly great forwards within the sport 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 this allied to Sean McCormack's accuracy from frees helped to keep the visitors in touch at 2-5 to 1-5 by half-way.

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 matter of minutes.

When courageous Longford pirated 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 for the home supporters.

Armagh: P McEvoy; G McCooey, J Donnelly, S Finnegan; A Kernan (0-2, frees), B Donaghy, C McKeever; J Lavery, S Harold, K Dyas (0-2), S Campbell, C Rafferty; J Clarke (1-1), S Forker (1-2, 0-1 free), J Hanratty. Subs: J Morgan for Finnegan (25), D McKenna for McCooey (46), T Kernan (1-1, 0-1) for Hanratty (50), B Mallon for Campbell (50). Yellows: Morgan (33), Donaghy (40), Donnelly (48), Campbell (49), McKeever (70).

Longford: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, P Foy; M Quinn, K Diffley, S Mulligan; J Keegan, M Brady; B McElvanney, D McElligott, A Rowen ; F McGee (2-2), P Barden, S McCormack (0-7, 0-6 frees). Subs: D Barden for P Barden (half-time), N Mulligan for Keegan (57).

Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).

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