Armagh 1-11 Longford 1-10: This was the ultimate smash and grab operation.
An Armagh side that struggled to find their rhythm for the greater part of the game, missed a litany of scoring chances, and were unable to maximise their numerical advantage when Longford were reduced to 14 players, somehow managed to conjure up a goal and a point deep in the bowels of injury-time to maintain their unbeaten record in Division Three.
And winning boss, Kieran McGeeney, made no attempt to hide his displeasure at the display. “We were terrible. We played very poorly and missed far too many scoring chances but it is a good sign in one sense that the team played so badly and still managed to win.”
The loss of midfielder Andrew Farrell to a second yellow card in the 38th minute following the earlier departure of Padraig McCormack through injury and the black cards incurred by James McGivney and Michael Quinn stripped Longford of a seam of experience, yet their courage, character and commitment were never in doubt.
They were the more purposeful side in the first half, frequently forcing their hosts onto the back foot and carrying a considerable threat up front in the form of Robbie Smyth.
His opening point proved the signal for his side to flex their muscles and in the next 10 minutes David McGivney (2) and Daniel Mimnagh added scores to leave the visitors ahead at 0-4 to 0-1.
But just when it looked as if Longford might take an even firmer grip on the contest, Armagh sparked into life and when Stephen Sheridan, Rory Grugan, and Ethan Rafferty nailed points they looked to be up and running.
The ever-dangerous Smyth struck in the 25th and 27th minutes to help ease the visitors into a 0-8 to 0-5 lead. Despite the loss of Farrell, Longford retained their poise but at 0-9 to 0-6, Armagh responded with points from Rafferty (2) and McCabe to level the game.
Longford looked to have applied a killer blow in the 57th minute when skipper Daniel McElligott drilled home a penalty after Brendan Donaghy had handled the ball on the ground in the small square.
When James McGivney hoisted over a point, Longford looked secure at 1-10 to 0-9 but Niall Grimley’s point in the 66th minute was followed by a Rafferty goal that saw the sides all-square again.
There was a suspicion that Longford’s McElligott had been pushed in the build-up to the goal but it stood, and skipper Rory Grugan steered over the winner seconds later, much to the chagrin of Longford boss Denis Connerton.
“We were let down by the officials,” blasted Connerton. “There were 26 fouls for Armagh and 12 for Longford.
“We picked up a serious amount of cards and it’s not the first time that this has happened, unfortunately.
“It is so difficult to win matches and when you play as well as my lads played in this game, you just feel that you need a little more protection.
“I think you would wish to see the officials perform at a better level than they did on this occasion.”
Scorers for Armagh:
E Rafferty 1-4, R Grugan 0-3 (2f), G McCabe, S Sheridan, n Grimley and B Crealey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Longford:
R Smyth 0-3, D McElligott 1-0 ,D Reynolds 0-2, D McGivney 0-2 (2f), M Quinn, D Mimnagh, J McGivney 0-1 each.
B Hughes; P Burns, A McKay, B Donaghy; N Rowland, G McCabe, M Shields; S Sheridan, C Vernon; R McShane, A Forker, N Grimley; R Grugan, B Crealey, E Rafferty.
A Duffy for McShane (45), M Stevenson for Crealey (61), J McElroy for Donaghy (62), R Kennedy for Duffy (BC 70), A Findon for Sheridan (71), P Burns BC (76 – no replacement).
P Collum; P Fox, P McCormack, D McElligott; M Quinn, B Gilleran, D Mimnagh; D Gallagher, A Farrell; B McKeon, D McGivney, D Reynolds; R Smyth, C Berry, R Brady.
P Foy for McCormack (13), J McGivney for D McGivney (BC 20), R McEntire for Brady (47), D Quinn for Reynolds (71), D Masterson for Quinn (73).
Noel Mooney (Cavan).
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