Armagh 1-19 Louth 1-18
Armagh claimed their third win of the campaign after a titanic tussle against neighbours Louth and it was Dean Gaffney who proved to be the hero, slotting over the free in the final minute to secure victory.
Danny Magee proved to be a real livewire in the Armagh full forward line in the first half and the Louth defence couldn’t deal with his pace, often fouling the corner forward as the only means of getting him stopped.
The away side certainly died on their shield as the pushed Armagh all the way to the final whistle, leading twice in the final moments.
Captain Nathan Curry got proceedings underway after David Grant beautifully used his body to shelter possession and send up the Orchard Counties first score.
Dean Gaffney clipped over two frees while Magee left his defender feeling dizzy, weaving in and out past the corner back to drive the ball over the bar.
Louth didn’t help themselves early on, and missed several scoring opportunities. They did eventually get off the mark 18 minutes after the opening whistle through Gavin Kerrigan.
Paul McCormack’s men really only played in bursts throughout the first 30 minutes, and they halved the deficit seconds after their first score, Feidhleim Joyce this time raising the white flag.
Armagh cancelled out Louth’s hard work with the next two scores with Gaffney driving over another placed ball. Ordhan Curry worked extremely hard to turn the ball over in his sides attacking third of the field and fired over from 30 yards.
Again the Wee County fought back, Robert Grace, who was strangely replaced at the break, claimed a brace before Feidhleim Joyce clipped over his second of the half.
Then came Armagh’s most dominant period of the contest. Dean Gaffney claimed another from the dead ball while Nathan Curry and Ryan Gaffney continued Armagh’s momentum.
Curry scored his second in as many minutes and points were added through Danny Magee and Dean Gaffney (free) to give Armagh a solid 0-12 to 0-5 half time lead.
Louth weren’t about to throw in the towel however and started the second half in whirlwind fashion, thanks mostly to the accuracy of Ryan Walsh.
Walsh punished three defensive fouls before grabbing his fourth point in the opening eight minutes of the second half, to cut the home sides advantage to just three.
Again Armagh turned up the tempo as Louth looked to close the gap and big scores from Middletown duo Nathan Curry and Paddy McBride gave the home side some breathing space.
The visitors soon slashed the margin with Darren Geoghegan striking a point after just being introduced before a free bounced off the upright, falling to Joyce who drove the ball to the back of the net to close the gap 0-14 to 1-10.
Louth could have taken the lead but for the heroics of Armagh net-minder Fintan Woods who turned Andrew Mackin’s shot on goal over the bar and the white flag was raised instead.
The away side would edge in front with the next attack however, and Feidhleim Joyce was again on target to hand his side a slender 1-12 to 0-14 lead, with 15 minutes remaining.
Armagh came roaring back and Paddy McBride’s driving run at the heart of the opposition defence saw the midfielder hauled to the ground, with Dean Gaffney slamming home the penalty to restore the Armagh lead.
Gaffney would play a crucial role with his accurate free taking in the final quarter and his point in the 22nd minute sent his side three points ahead.
Louth refused to wilt and continued to chase the Armagh lead, Walsh trading frees with Gaffney while further points from Geoghegan (2) and Walsh tied the contest, 1-16 to 1-16.
Jamie McDonnell captured possession from the Armagh puck out and raided forward, slotting the ball between the posts to gift Louth the lead.
Armagh responded brilliant, claiming three of the final four points with Geoghegan providing Louth’s solitary response to three Gaffney frees.
With time up, trust was thrust upon the Middletown mans shoulders and just as he had done for the entirety of the game, Gaffney fired the ball over the bar.
This proved to be the final piece of action and Armagh remain on course to make the Division 3A final as they lead the way with one game remaining. The take on Tyrone next Sunday with the Athletic Grounds the venue once more, and Armagh will hope to continue their unbeaten run.
Armagh Team: Fintan Woods, Paddy Quinn, Tiarnan Nevin, Ciaran Clifford, Oisin Keenan, Artie McGuinness, Connor Devlin, Paddy McBride (0-1), Odhran Curry (0-1), Dean Gaffney 1-9), Eoin McGuinness, Ryan Gaffney (0-2), David Grant, Nathan Curry (0-4), Danny Magee (0-2). Subs: Marty Moan for David Grant, Liam McElroy E. McGuinness for Paddy Kelly for C. Devlin