Hurlers hang on to claim draw

Armagh and Longford played out a 0-9 to 0-9 draw on Sunday and both teams remain unbeaten in Division 3A, with the Orchard County sitting top of the table on a better scoring difference.

The contest failed to burst into life until the final moments, with the result still very much in the air. Although Longford would have came away happier with their performance, Armagh kept in touch the whole time.

When the men in orange and white reflect on their below par showing, they’ll see this as a point gained rather than a point lost, and they showed great character to keep fighting until the end.

The game was 71 minutes old when Armagh took the lead for the first time, and it looked that they had stole the two points on offer. But Longford were able to grab a late equaliser to earn a share of the spoils.

Longford played with the strong wind advantage in the opening 35 minutes, and the breeze assisted in Johnny Casey driving over a long range score after six minutes to break the deadlock.

Armagh soon levelled when Dean Gaffney tapped over a handy free before Longford once again took control; David Buckley firing over two frees to put his side two ahead.

Oisin Keenan reduced the margin with his first score of the day, after Danny Magee had played the Keady man through, but the hosts regained their two point advantage with Buckley once again raising a white flag.

Danny Magee opened his account before once again turning provider; this time setting up roaming wing half back Kevin McKernan, who tied the game 0-4 each with his 33rd minute score.

Longford again hit a brace with Paul Barden getting in on the action prior to Buckley striking his 4th of the half. Ryan Gaffney’s powerful run ended with a point and this was the final action of the half, with Longford just ahead 0-6 to 0-5.

The second half proved to be a free taking shoot out as only two scores (both Longford) came from open play, the first and the last scores of the half.

It was Aidan Sheridan who abandoned his corner back duties to steal forward and hit the first point of the second period and stretch Longford’s lead to two points just after the break.

10 minutes went by before the next score was witnessed but it was certainly worth the wait. Nathan Curry stood up to blaze over a free from well within his own half to signal a revival within the Armagh camp.

Both sides were reduced to 14 men for an off the ball altercation before Longford clawed their two point lead back, their star man Cathal Mullane firing over a free from close to the sideline.

Armagh rallied and claimed the next three points and the introduction of Shaun Toal at the break made a telling difference, with the Middletown man involved in all the action around the centre of the park.

Dean Gaffney reduced the deficit to the minimum while Nathan Curry drove over another long range free to tie the contest 0-8 apiece, with the game now entering addition time.

It seemed that Gaffney was going to be the hero on the day as he swung over a 71st minute point to hand Armagh the lead for the first time but Longford battled back with Daniel Connell scoring three minutes later.

Both sides were wasteful and missed chances in front of the posts but the two teams will be happy to still be unbeaten, and still on course for a league final appearance, where it is highly likely the two sides will clash again.

Armagh host both Louth and Tyrone in the coming weeks and despite a huge disaster, should be well on their way to reaching Croke Park on the 8th of March and securing promotion.

Armagh: Fintan Woods, Patrick Quinn, Artie McGuinness, Tiernan Nevin, Ciaran Clifford, Aaron Fox, Kieran McKernan (0-1), Nathan Curry (0-2), Odhran Curry, Dean Gaffney (0-3), Oisin Keenan (0-1), Ryan Gaffney (0-1), Fiontainn Donnelly, Eoin McGuinness, Danny Magee (0-1). Subs: Shaun Toal for O. Keenan, Conor Devlin for K. McKernan, Liam McElroy for F. Donnelly.