Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Armagh need final flourish to stay safe

Armagh 1-10 Louth 1-12

Tony Kernan scores for Armagh, but his goal wasn't enough to prevent a defeat to Louth

Armagh may not quite be engulfed in the tentacles of relegation, but this setback at home inflicted by one of their own has certainly dimmed the prospect of an extension of their tenure in Division Two.

Manager Paul Grimley now faces the mammoth task of resurrecting a league campaign that has gone somewhat askew in the remaining matches against Galway and Westmeath.

The Orchard County boss remains philosophical, though, as he surveys the route ahead conscious that his side have garnered just four points from a possible 10 to date.

"We made things hard for ourselves against Louth," said Grimley

"Our possession was loose at times and at a vital stage when we were two points in front we were not able to close it out."

The absence of key players Jamie Clarke, Aaron Kernan, Ciaran McKeever and Kieran Toner from his starting line-up certainly impacted adversely on the levels of cohesion, penetration and support play on offer yet Louth were similarly handicapped with the inspirational Paddy Keenan, the wily John O'Brien and the emerging Gary O'Hare unable to start.

"Louth came at us strongly in the closing minutes and we weren't able to handle them," said Grimley.

"It was disappointing to get nothing from this game, but the players are still on a learning curve and they have to absorb harsh lessons from an experience such as this."

In contrast Louth boss Aidan O'Rourke, an All-Ireland winner with Armagh in 2002, saw his side gallop into 1-4 to 0-3 lead at one stage in the first-half when Adrian Reid's goal underpinned their dominance before Tony Kernan triggered the home team's recovery by sidestepping goalkeeper Niall Gallagher before sweeping the ball into an empty net in the 26th minute.

At 1-5 each at half-time the match was delicately balanced and remained so for the greater part of the second period during which the teams were level on four more occasions, despite the home team being without James Donnelly from the 44th minute following his dismissal.

But when the Wee County's fired-up battery of substitutes took a hand in proceedings, Armagh imploded.

Jim McEnaney's exquisite distribution, Derek Maguire's robust industry and a sublime point from 18-year-old Ciaran Byrne helped usher Louth into the comfort zone despite the 65th minute red-carding of the combative Gerard Hoey.

Armagh: P McEvoy; J Morgan, B Donaghy, J Donnelly; F Moriarty, D McKenna (0-1), A Duffy; J Lavery, S Harold (0-2); C Rafferty (0-1), J Hanratty, S Campbell (0-1); T Kernan (1-0), S Forker (0-2, 0-1free), G McParland (0-3, 0-2 frees). Subs: M Shields for Morgan (30 mins), B Loughran for Duffy (46), B Mallon for Forker (48), K Toner for Hanratty (57), S Clarke for Campbell (63). Yellow cards: Donnelly (35 mins), Donaghy (62 mins). Red card: Donnelly (44 mins).

Louth: N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, G Hoey; C McGuinness, D Crilly (0-1), A Reid (1-1); R Carroll, B Donnelly (0-1); A McDonnell, M Brennan, B White (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 '45'); D Clarke, S Lennon (0-3), K Rogers (0-2, 0-1 free). Subs: D Maguire (0-1) for Clarke (41 mins), J McEnaney for McGuinness (50), C Byrne (0-1)for Rogers (61). Yellow cards: Rogers (12 mins), Hoey (54). Red card: Hoey (65 mins).

Referee: Eamon Kinsella (Laois).

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