Jamie Clarke has starring role as Armagh savour comeback win
Meath 2-10 Armagh 0-19: Jamie Clarke kick-started Armagh's league campaign with a virtuoso performance to give manager Paul Grimley a sweet victory over the county he served as selector for two seasons.
Grimley was part of the management team during Seamus McEneaney's turbulent two year spell in charge of the Royal County. Clarke repaid his boss for handing him the captaincy by notching 11 points as the Orchard County picked up their first win after drawing with Louth and losing narrowly to Down.
The winners trailed by five points after just 16 minutes and recovered from the concession of a second goal to dominate the game for long spells and were full value for their three point win.
It didn't look good for the Orchard men after keeper Philip McEvoy spilled a harmless point attempt from Michael Newman and the ball ended up in the net.
Meath had the ball in the Armagh net again with Bryan McMahon applying the finishing touch after McEvoy had blocked a goal effort from Stephen Bray.
That left the hosts leading 2-4 to 0-5 after 26 minutes but Armagh then enjoyed a fine spell and by half-time the lead was down to the minimum, 2-5 to 0-10. Clarke contributed three points in that period while Oisin McKeever and Stephen Harold, with his second point, also got on the mark.
"The most pleasing thing about tonight is that it was a great team performance,'" a relieved Grimley said afterwards.
"Jamie (Clarke) put in a man of the match performance but it was a great all-round display. I thought Charlie Vernon had a very good game and Mark Shields was superb but I couldn't find much fault with any of them.
"We have had a lot of injuries but such a situation seemed to galvanise the rest of the players, Grimley continued.
"The boys responded well and have worked hard for each other. With two more Saturday night games coming, it's unlikely there will be many changes to the team."
When it was suggested to Grimley that if his side lost to Meath he'd be looking over his shoulder, he said: "We'll be still looking over our shoulders and that's not a bad thing."
Meath seemed to have regained control as points from Michael Newman, Bryan McMahon and Eamon Wallace pushed the lead back out to four within seven minutes of the restart.
The trusty boot of Clarke kept Armagh in contention and the sides were level after Caolan Rafferty split the posts on 58 minutes. With Meath's play disjointed, the momentum was with the visitors and substitute Eugene McVerry pointed them ahead with 10 minutes remaining. Clarke then took his tally to double figures with his side's last three points for a thoroughly deserved win.
Armagh: P McEvoy; P Hughes, A Mallon, M Murray; M Shields, C Vernon, F O'Neill; A Findon, S Harold (0-2); T Kernan, K Dyas, C Rafferty (0-2); J Clarke (0-11, 8 frees) S Campbell (0-2 1 '45), O McKeever (0-1). Subs: S Forker for Findon (black card 31), B Mallon for Kernan (39), E McVerry (0-1) for McKeever (53), J Hanratty for Vernon (68). Meath: P O'Rourke; D Keogan, K Reilly, M Burke; P Harnan, B Menton, E Harrington; A Tormey, S O'Rourke (0-1); E Wallace (0-2), S Bray, G Reilly (0-2); D Bray (0-1,1 free), B McMahon (1-2), M Newman )1-2, 0-1free). Subs: D Carroll for G Reilly (51), D McDonagh for S Bray (51), S Kenny for Tormey (57), D Tobin for Carroll (black card 62), D Larkin for S O'Rourke (63).
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).