Findon's late strike helps wasteful Armagh over line
Armagh 1-15 Down 2-8
Armagh diced with danger before finally clipping Down's wings in this absorbing Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup tie in front of 4,320 enthralled fans at the Athletic Grounds last night.
Yet the Orchard County's profligacy proved a telling factor in their failure to reach the last four of the competition after they had promised so much in the initial stages of the contest.
In a rip-roaring finish, the home side pilfered a goal in added time from Aaron Findon that took them clear of their plucky opponents just two minutes after Down looked to have seized the initiative when Alan Davidson thundered in a superb 70th-minute goal to cap a fine individual performance.
Despite enjoying the lion's share of possession in the first half, a combination of poor shooting and some stubborn Down defending restricted Armagh to a 0-7 0-4 interval lead.
Indeed, such was the home side's dominance for the most part that Down managed only one point from play and had to wait until the 25th minute before Cathal Magee hit the target to complement a brace of scores from frees by Davidson.
Kieran McGeeney's side rattled up four points in the first 10 minutes through Ethan Rafferty, Anthony Duffy, Oisin MacIomhair and Stephen Sheridan but then subsequently took their foot well off the accelerator.
They found their rhythm again to plunder another three points between the 16th and 21st minutes with Rory Grugan, Niall Grimley and Sheridan their marksmen but it was the Mournemen who managed to finish the half on a more encouraging note.
When the livewire Davidson pocketed two quick-fire points immediately on the resumption, Down acquired renewed confidence and from then on they exerted considerable pressure on the home side.
By the 53rd minute they had trimmed their hosts' advantage to just one point (0-10 to 1-6) but Grimley (three) and Rafferty shared in a four-point haul that took their side clear at 0-14 to 1-6.
When Davidson stole in for his goal, Down looked as if they might pull the match out of the fire but Findon's late strike helped to see Armagh over the line.
Armagh: P Morrison; J Magill, C Vernon, O Lappin; A Forker, N Rowland, C Higgins; S Sheridan 0-2, N Grimley 0-4 (2f); B Crealey, C White, R Grugan 0-4 (2f); A Duffy 0-1, E Rafferty 0-2, O MacIomhair 0-1. Subs: J Clarke for White (half-time), J McElroy for Higgins (41), A Findon 1-0 for Crealey (50), J Hall for MacIomhair (50), S McCoy for Rowland (61), N McConville 0-1 for Grugan (64). Yellow cards: White (33).
Down: M Cunningham; R McAleenan, G McGovern, D O'Hagan 1-0; R Mallon, C McGovern, B McArdle; N Donnelly, J Flynn; C Gallagher, C Magee 0-1, J Murphy; A Davidson 1-4 (2f), B O'Hagan 0-1, P Havern. Subs: S Millar for Gallagher (28), C Mooney 0-1 for Mallon (34), C Maginn for Magee (45), A Carr for Donnelly (BC 60), D Savage 0-1 (f) for Havern (61). Yellow cards: McGovern (33).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)