By Shaun Casey
ARMAGH got their Division 3A campaign off to a good start on Saturday afternoon, but their one-point win over Louth was far from convincing as they prepare for an Ulster derby with Monaghan.
For long periods of the contest the Wee county, led by former Armagh dual player Paul McCormack, were in charge.
A goal just after the interval shot Louth into a seven-point lead, but Armagh eventually clawed their way back into contention.
Middletown marksman Dean Gaffney fired over 0-10 in an excellent, accurate display in front of the goalposts.
Armagh’s attacking ace pointed to the conditions and Louth’s competitiveness as to why it took the Orchard a while to get going.
“Conditions were hard and Louth brought it to us in the first half with the wind.
“We had to dig deep and eventually got over by a point in the end. Plenty of ruck balls and men flying all over the place, that’s when work-rate and all comes into it.”
Gaffney was the hero the last time these sides clashed in the league. His last-minute score secured a 1-19 to 1-18 win that day. He achieved the same feat in Saturday’s opener.
Despite beating their opponents quite easily in the McGurk Cup, Gaffney and his teammates knew they would face a different animal in the league.
“We always expect a tight one against Louth. They came down here and to be fair to them they threw everything at us. We were under no illusions today. I know we done well against them in the McGurk Cup, but we weren’t expecting that same team today.”
The strong subs bench that Padraig O’Connor has had at his disposal certainly helped, with Eoin McGuinness rattling off 2-1 after being introduced for the second half.
“Fair play to the substitutions, they fairly helped. Eoin McGuinness there showed well, I think he got two goals at the end up, 2-1 maybe.
“I think one minute into the second half they (Louth) were up by seven, they threw everything at us. Fair play to our boys today, again the subs were fantastic.”
For the first time in a long time, Armagh are carrying a huge panel. With the exceptions of Ciaran Clifford (recently retired) and Aaron Fox (abroad), O’Connor has a full deck to choose from.
Gaffney, one of three brothers on the starting team along with Shea and Ryan, insists it’s “hard to beat” having a full panel to choose from.
“It’s hard to beat having a panel like that, with men coming off the line to get us over. We’re having full matches in training and stuff which is great. It adds competition. Plenty of men fighting for places.
“We have a number of men there who could be thrown on ahead of anyone any day.
“There was a very strong wind today. We knew in the second half that if we gathered ourselves and got together that we could turn it around.”
Armagh now face Monaghan on Sunday, with the chance to further strengthen their promotion push with another two points.