Armagh conquered a storm as they battled to a deserved win over Kildare with just 14 men at the Athletic Grounds.
This could be a vital result for Kieran McGeeney’s side as they set their sights on promotion to Division One, but a significant setback to a Lilywhite side that has lost two in a row and now must dig in to avoid slipping into Tier Two of the All-Ireland Championship.
Former Kildare manager McGeeney took the spoils in front of a crowd of 3,349, and he will have been delighted with the spirit shown by his players after Jamie Clarke was sent off on a second booking just two minutes into the second half.
A pitch inspection by referee David Coldrick was followed by a ground safety inspection as Storm Ciara whipped up, and the game was given the go-ahead to proceed as scheduled.
Armagh had the gale in their backs in the opening half, but they were frustrated time and again by a disciplined Lilywhite defence which had David Hyland and Keith Cribbin operating as double sweepers.
With just two points on the board in the opening quarter of an hour, the Orchard men had little to show for their territorial dominance, but gradually the openings started to appear, with an overworked defence showing the strain.
Two goal chances fell to Kieran McGeeney’s side, but Mark Donnellan’s superb save denied Aidan Nugent, then Peter Kelly produced an equally brilliant block to thwart Rian O’Neill.
But the scores started to mount in the second quarter, Stefan Campbell’s second following excellent efforts from Aidan Forker and Oisin O’Neill as they went five ahead.
And Jamie Clarke came off the bench to shoot two stoppage time scores, sending the Ulster side in with a 0-8 to 0-1 interval lead.
But Clarke picked up his second yellow card in the space of two minutes, and they were down to 14 men by the 37th minute.
But that didn’t halt the Orchard march, with Rian O’Neill stretching their lead out to 11 points.
Kildare, with just a single point to show for more than 50 minutes of endeavour, were struggling to use weather conditions to their advantage, and badly needed to turn the contest around.
A revival of sorts began with Paddy Brophy’s tidy score, followed by a couple of converted frees from substitute Adam Tyrell and a Daniel Flynn gem.
But as they committed more players to the offensive effort, the home side was able to find space on the breakaway to keep their Leinster visitors at arms length.
Paul Cribbin and Brophy were on target as Kildare edged closer, but never close enough to threaten an assured home side, for breakaway scores from Mark Shields and the excellent Rian O’Neill sealed the result and bitter-sweet win for McGeeney, who spent six years as Kildare manager.
B Hughes; P Burns, C O’Neill, A Forker (0-1, f); M Shields (0-1), S Sheridan (0-1), J McElroy; N Grimley (0-1), O O’Neill (0-1); J Og Burns, S Campbell (0-2), C Cumiskey (0-1); C Turbitt, R O’Neill (0-4, 3f), A Nugent (0-2, 1f, 1 mark).
J Clarke (0-2, 1f) for Turbitt (27), J Morgan for C O’Neill (45), G McCabe for Nugent (68), B Donaghy for Shields (69), A McKay for Cumiskey (71)
M Donnellan; P Kelly, M O’Grady, S Ryan; K Flynn, D Hyland, C Cavanagh; K Feely, T Moolick: P Cribbin (0-2), P Brophy (0-3), K Cribbin; N Kelly, D Flynn (0-1), J Hyland.
N Flynn for O’Grady (h-t), A Tyrrell (0-3, 2f) for Hyland (44), J Byrne for Cavanagh (45), J Robinson (0-1) for Moolick (56), L Power for N Kelly (65)
D Coldrick (Meath).