Donegal fringe men stake claim
Fears for the potency of the Donegal forward line in the absence of Tony and Manus Boyle were more than allayed yesterday at Ballybofey where a poor Armagh side were easily dismissed by a much-changed home side.
While the game lacked any great cohesion - there were 64 frees, and seven yellow cards - there were glimmers of genius from individual players.
One such moment came after 39 minutes when Brendan Devenney, in temporary possession of Tony Boyle's number 14 shirt, made a mockery of the Armagh defence as he drifted past three defenders before planting a left-footed drive in the corner of keeper Mark Campbell's net.
That goal came in the centre of a 10-minute scoring surge for Donegal when they scored 1-4 and lifted the game completely beyond Armagh's reach. Having led 0-2 to no score after 11 minutes, Armagh were held scoreless for the rest of the first half but they were still looking reasonably placed one minute into the new half when Diarmuid Marsden pointed a free to cut Donegal's lead to one point, 0-4 to 0-3.
But poor marking allowed Donegal the time and space to select their passes and scores flowed from McGuinness, Gildea and Devenney, who bagged a goal. Two points from substitutes Michael Hegarty and Brian McLaughlin confirmed Donegal's superiority.
Supposedly lacking in experience Donegal were now in complete control. Backs Niall McCready and Damien Diver were superb while Jim McGuinness was influential at midfield. Brendan Devenney may have struggled but finished with 1-1 and it would appear that there is further talent available to manager Declan Bonner should he need it. Substitutes Brian McLaughlin and Michael Hegarty made a compelling case for selection against All-Ireland champions Galway in two weeks time.
Donegal: T Blake; D Diver, R Sweeney, E Reddin; N McGinley, N Hegarty, N McCready; J Ruane, B Ward; J McGuinness (0-4, three frees), A Sweeney (0-2), J Gildea (0-1); B Roper, B Devenney (1-1), M Ward. Subs: M Hegarty (0-1) for M Ward (half-time); B McLaughlin (0-1) for B Ward (42 mins); S Carr for McGinley (57 mins).
Armagh: M Campbell; E McNulty, M McNeill, J Rafferty (0-1); J McNulty, G Reid, M McQuillan (0-1); J Burns, K McGeeney; P McKeever, B O'Hagan (0-1), P McGrane; J Byrne, D Macken (0-1), D Marsden (0-2, both frees). Subs: K Hughes for McQuillan (half-time); G Houlahan for Byrne and P Loughran for McKeever (47 mins).
Referee: M McBrien (Fermanagh).