Armagh 3-8 Longford 1-9
Jamie Clarke made a sensational return to the Armagh team to play an inspirational role in their first competitive win of the season.
Clarke and a couple of his Crossmaglen colleagues re-engaged with the inter-county scene at the Athletic Grounds, where the Orchard men pipped a plucky Longford side by two points.
The Midlanders appear to be in deep trouble, still without a point following three games in Division Three, and manager Glen Ryan, while encouraged by this battling displayed, will be looking to turn the corner next weekend.
Clarke was involved in all his side’s best attacking moves, scoring a goal and setting up two more for Stefan Forker and Tony Kernan, as well as making a contribution to many other scores.
He banged in his side’s opening goal in the sixth minute, and turned creator three minutes later, a perfectly timed pas sending Forker in to beat Damien Sheridan.
But Longford quickly recovered from that double setback to hit a goal just a minute later.
Paul Barden’s long delivery was collected by Francis McGee, who skipped around his marker before finishing low to the net past Philip McEvoy.
Forker scored Armagh’s first point of the game in the 17th minute, and Clarke followed up with another couple.
Sean McCormack kept the Leinster men in touch with three scores from frees, and a wonderful effort from play, and at the interval, it was Armagh who led by 2-5 to 1-5.
David Barden almost made an inspired arrival in the action, but he was hauled down as he went for goal, and McCormack tapped over the resultant free, before Aaron Kernan restored the three points advantage from a free.
Clarke continued to cause havoc every time he got on the ball, but a series of Orchard attacks came to nothing.
Both sides went around 20 minutes without raising a flag, and it was aaron Kernan who got Armagh up and running again with his second converted free of the second half.
That was quickly followed by a third Orchard goal in the 64th minute, and once again the mercurial Clarke was involved again.
His pass sent Brian Mallon in on goal, and when his shot was blocked down by Barry Gilleran, substitute Tony Kernan followed up to slide the ball to the net.
Six points behind, Longford picked themselves up off the ground again, and set up a gripping finish with a 1-2 salvo.
McCormack tapped over two frees, and McGee’s predatory instincts saw him scramble a second goal to leave just point between the sides.
But crucially, it was Armagh who claimed the next score, Tony Kernan drilling a ’45 between the posts.
Scorers for Armagh: J Clarke 1-2, S Forker 1-2 (1f), T Kernan 1-1 (0-1 ’45), A Kernan 0-2 (2f), K Dyas 0-1
Longford: F McGee 2-2, S McCormack 0-7 (6f).
ARMAGH: P McEvoy, G McCooey, J Donnelly, S Finnegan, A Kernan, B Donaghy, C McKeever, J Lavery, S Harold, K Dyas, S Campbell, C Rafferty, J Clarke, J Hanratty, S Forker.
Subs: J Morgan for Finnegan (26), D McKenna for McCooey (45), B Mallon for Hanratty (50), T Kernan for Campbell (50)
LONGFORD: D Sheridan, D Brady, B Gilleran, P Foy, M Quinn, K Diffley, S Mulligan, J Keegan, M Brady, B McElvanney, D McElligott, A Rowen, F McGee, P Barden, S McCormack.
Subs: D Barden for P Barden (h-t), C Smith for Diffley (h-t), N Mulligan for Keegan (57)
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).