Armagh hurlers won through to the Nicky Rackard semi-final on Saturday after seeing off a tricky challenge on the road to Longford.
Indeed it was the home side who got off to the brighter start with four early frees converted by Joe O’Brien. Declan Coulter opened the scoring for the Orchard, having collected the ball from Ciaran Clifford who broke through the Longford midfield and Conor Corvan added a second. Peter McKearney got onto the scoresheet with a great effort from the left and Coulter got his second to level matters after 15 minutes of play. Conor Corvan soon sent Armagh in front and with 17 minutes gone, Armagh finally won their first free which was converted by Ryan Gaffney.
Cian McLoughlin responded for the home side, who were finding it difficult to penetrate the Armagh defence. Gaffney and Coulter with a super effort added to the Armagh tally but a point from Cathal Mullane stopped Armagh from pulling away. Armagh were having the better of the midfield exchanges and a sweet strike from Stephen Renaghan put the visitors 0-9 to 0-6 ahead. Joe O’Brien was back among the scoring with half time approaching, happy to punish any Armagh indiscipline but two scores from Conor Corvan ensured the Orchard county went in at half time with a 0-11 to 0-7 lead.
While Declan Coulter hit the first score of the second half, Longford showed that they were not for lying down when a dropped high ball was finished to the net by Keelan Cox to put two between the teams. Scores were traded before Conor Corvan fed the ball through to the impressive Declan Coulter who finished to the net for Armagh’s first major. Longford however were still buoyed by their own green flag and when another high ball in found Eugene Kieran, the home side were celebrating a second goal.
A converted free from Cathal Mullane cut the deficit down to one but scores from Coulter and a great strike from Ryan Gaffney helped settle Armagh nerves. Points were again traded and Armagh found breathing room, when Stephen Renaghan found the net with just over ten to go. Unfortunately for the Leinster men, they struggled to muster any further attacks and fresh legs from Armagh helped push the Orchard side on. Two further points from Ryan Gaffney, one from the dead ball and one from play, and a late goal from Conor Corvan ensured that Armagh booked a spot in the semi-final against Fingal.
Full time score Longfort 2-11 Ard Mhacha 3-19
Manager Sylvester McConnell will be pleased with the performances of a number of his players, particularly Declan Coulter on his return and Conor Corvan, who finished with 2-12 between them. While the scoreline may show 11 points between the sides, Armagh know that they have plenty of work to cover if they are to beat Fingal on Saturday week.
Armagh: Simon Doherty, Ciarán Clifford, Artie McGuinness, Paddy McGrane, Kieran McKernan, Nathan Curry, Cormac Toner, John Corvan, Stephen Renaghan 1-1, David Carvill, Peter McKearney 0-1, Ryan Gaffney 0-5 (0-3 f), Declan Coulter 1-6, Eoin McGuinness, Conor Corvan 1-6
Subs used: Connor Devlin, Liam Woods, Odhrán Curry, Dylan McKenna, Adam Toal