Not only have the brace of points bolstered the Wee County’s promotion push but O’Rourke discovered that he has rich selection options at his disposal ahead of what he terms a “massive test” against Derry next weekend.
Forced to start without talisman Paddy Keenan, defensive strongman John O’Brien and the emerging Gary O’Hare, O’Rourke learned that not only were their replacements — Padraig Rath, Conor McGuinness and Ronan Carroll — well-equipped for the challenge but that subs Derek Maguire, Jim McEnaney and Ciarán Byrne have thrust themselves into the frame for regular recognition.
“We are very happy with where we are at but the five points we have could quite easily be seven or eight so there is lots of room for progress,” reflected O’Rourke. “We were hit by defections before the game but the players who were brought in stepped up to the mark. And the fact that 18-year-old Ciaran Byrne scored a crucial point in injury-time epitomises the character within this side.
“You could nearly have forgiven the boys had they decided to throw the towel in even before the game because of the way we were hit with cry-offs.”
Louth’s incisive running, clever distribution and feisty work-rate helped to propel them into a 1-4 to 0-3 lead by the 22nd minute, Adrian Reid’s opportunist goal stoking their fire before Armagh responded with a Tony Kernan goal that had the sides level at the interval (1-5 each).
Even though Armagh were handicapped by the dismissal of James Donnelly in the 44th minute, the sides were level on four more occasions before the Wee County’s battery from the bench took a hand in proceedings.
Jim McEnaney’s exquisite distribution, Maguire’s robust industry and a sublime point from Byrne ushered Louth into the comfort zone despite the 65th-minute red-carding of 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, 1f), G McParland (0-3, 2f).
Subs: M Shields for Morgan (30), B Loughran for Duffy (46), B Mallon for Forker (48), K Toner for Hanratty (57), S Clarke for Campbell (63).
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, 1f, 1 45); D Clarke, S Lennon (0-3), K Rogers (0-2, 1f).
Subs: D Maguire (0-1) for Clarke (41), J McEnaney for McGuinness (50), C Byrne (0-1) for Rogers (61).
Referee: Eamon Kinsella (Laois).