Armagh hurlers can breathe a huge sigh of relief as they grabbed the two points with a last puck of the ball free securing a vital victory over Louth.
The visitors will be kicking themselves especially given the free was moved up to scoring range and Armagh will be thankful that Dean Gaffney’s effort came off the right side of the near upright to sail over for the winner. Armagh can also be grateful for a couple of super saves from goalkeeper Fintan Woods.
Armagh raced into an early four point advantage with scores from Nathan Curry, Ryan Gaffney, Danny Magee and Déan Gaffney. Louth pulled two back but these efforts were cancelled by another Dean Gaffney free and a good score from Odhrán Curry after he cleverly dispossessed his Louth opponent at midfield. Louth did hit back with three points in five minutes, but the home side piled on the pressure in the last ten minutes of the half as they doubled their six point tally. Dean Gaffney and Nathan Curry both hit two with Danny Magee adding his second and Ryan Gaffney finishing off a well-worked move to leave Armagh looking comfortable at half time 0-12 to 0-5.
Louth hit the ground running in the second half as Ryan Walsh claimed four consecutive points. A long rang free from Nathan Curry looked to have settled Armagh’s nerves as Paddy McBride followed it up with an inspirational score. But Darren Geoghegan fired over a free before Louth celebrated a fortuitous goal, which was slapped over the line after the ball came off the upright. Louth tails were up and a brilliant reflex save from Fintan Woods prevented another three pointer as he forced the ball over the bar. Féidhlim Joyce added another from play to put Louth ahead for the first time after 18 minutes of the second half, leading 1-12 to 0-14.
Armagh looked to have stopped the rot when Dean Gaffney buried the ball in the net from the penalty spot after Paddy McBride’s was dragged down as he was bearing down on goal. Gaffney added a further score from the dead ball, but this was cancelled out by a Ryan Walsh free at the other end. Gaffney and Geoghegan trades scores from the dead ball and a Ryan Walsh effort from play brought the margin down to one again. Fintan Woods again pulled off a great save as Geoghegan levelled matters with the resulting 65. It was tit-for-tat in the final five minutes with Gaffney’s accuracy matched by Darren Geoghegan’s, whose 65 three minutes into injury time looked to have secured the draw. But the final drama was left to Dean Gaffney who held his nerve to ensure Armagh took both points on a score line of 1-19 to 1-18.
Armagh: Fintan Woods, Paddy Quinn, Artie McGuinness, Connor Devlin, Oisín Keenan, Tiarnán Nevin, Ciarán Clifford, Paddy McBride 0-1, Odhrán Curry 0-1, Dean Gaffney 1-9 (1-0 pen 0-9f), Eoin McGuinness, Ryan Gaffney 0-2, Davy Grant, Nathan Curry 0-4 (0-1f), Danny Magee 0-2
Subs used: Marty Moan, Paddy Kelly, LiamMcIlroy
Armagh face a must-win game next Sunday with Tyrone visiting the Athletic Grounds. Following other weekend results, Tyrone and Donegal both sit one point behind Armagh at the top of the table with Longford a further point behind, with all four sides in with a chance of making the league final.