Stevenson free takes win for Armagh

Armagh 1-14 Down 0-16

Armagh 1-14 Down 0-16

A Michael Stevenson free kick, deep into injury-time, snatched victory for Armagh this evening to keep their league hopes alive.

Down battled back from Brian Mallon's 46th-minute penalty to edge ahead with time almost up through Mark Poland.

But captain Ciaran McKeever, who was only cleared to play hours earlier after the CHC quashed his two-match ban, scored an equaliser from out on the wing with time almost up after Poland thought he had won the game for Down.

McKeever's score lifted the home crowd and brave young rookie Stevenson stepped up to slot over an injury-time free and seal the win for the Orchard men.

Down will be annoyed they did not take something away from this Ulster derby clash at the Morgan Athletic Grounds.

They had two late attempts to draw level again, substitute Ben O'Reilly missing a glorious chance with the last kick of the game.

The result leaves Armagh's fate in their own hands as they should survive in the top flight if they get a draw in Donegal in two weeks' time.

This was a much sharper, focused Armagh side than had appeared in recent weeks. They opened up a 0-4 to 0-2 lead in the 11th minute, midfielder Peter Carragher scoring the first point from play in the game.

It took Down a little while to get to grips with the intensity Armagh were playing at but they gradually edged their way into the contest. Eoin McCartan justified his inclusion instead of Benny Coulter with a couple of superb points.

Play was held up for four minutes as midfielder Carragher had to be stretchered off the pitch. He was replaced by Rory Grugan who lasted only 10 minutes before limping off.

The stoppages and the injury blows took the wind out of Armagh's sails. It was Down who took control by hitting five points in-a-row, including terrific efforts from play from Danny Hughes and Kevin McKernan.

Stevenson converted two long range frees to leave the home side trailing by just 0-9 to 0-8 at the interval.

Mallon stepped up to fire home his penalty after Stevenson was denied by a foot-block. Down edged their way back into the game with long range points from Gordon, Hughes and Rogers to set up a thrilling finish.

They looked the team most likely to close it out but Armagh, and especially McKeever, had other ideas.

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, D McKenna (0-1); K Dyas, C McKeever (0-1), F Moriarty (0-1); P Carragher (0-1), C Vernon; P Duffy, BJ Padden, A Duffy; C Rafferty (0-1), B Mallon (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-2f), M Stevenson (0-6, 0-6f).

Subs used: R Grugan for Carragher (23 mins), D Lavery for Grugan (33), J Lavery for Padden (half-time).

DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, C Garvey, A Brannigan; N McParland, D Gordon (0-1), K McKernan (0-1); A Rogers (0-2, 0-1 '45'), K King; D Hughes (0-2), M Poland (0-2), A Carr (0-6, 0-6f); C Maginn, E McCartan (0-2), C Laverty.

Subs used: B Coulter for Maginn (42 mins), K Quinn for Brannigan (60), A McArdle for King (64).

Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).

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