Determined Donegal leave it late to overcome Armagh

Colm McFadden’s 62nd minute goal proves crucial for the visitors

 Armagh’s Jamie Clarke fends off  Donegal’s Neil McGee during the Dr McKenna Cup clash at the Athletic Grounds. Photo:  Jonathan Porter/Presseye/Inpho

Armagh’s Jamie Clarke fends off Donegal’s Neil McGee during the Dr McKenna Cup clash at the Athletic Grounds. Photo: Jonathan Porter/Presseye/Inpho

 


Donegal 1-10 Armagh 0-11

A strong last quarter helped Donegal come from five points down to record their first win of the season at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.

The 2012 All-Ireland champions were far from convincing for long spells of this McKenna Cup tie but finished with a stronger team than they started with to see off Armagh.

Apart from a good opening and closing ten minutes from Donegal, Armagh were fairly dominant and a little unlucky not to win.

The home side reeled off five points without reply in the second quarter, finally taking advantage of the strong wind at their backs, to lead 0-7 to 0-3 at half-time.

They also led 0-10 to 0-5 after the third quarter, but a Colm McFadden goal in the 62nd minute turned the game.

Four attempts
It took McFadden four attempts to finally get the ball over the line after his initial low shot was blocked by the feet of goalkeeper Philip McEvoy.

Stefan Campbell made two further blocks on the line before McFadden grabbed the all-important goal.

With Karl Lacey, Neil McGee, David Walsh and Neil Gallagher all making their first appearances of the year, the latter trio coming off the bench, Donegal played with great purpose and a hunger not always associated with this time of year.

Armagh never recovered from the goal and Michael Murphy’s point, followed by a superb 69th minute free from near the sideline, put Donegal ahead for the first time since the 23rd minute.

Donegal rookie Odhran MacNiallais caught the eye with an impressive showing when moved into midfield in the latter stages.

He kicked two points in the last few minutes as Donegal snatched the victory which keeps them in the hunt for a possible semi-final place.

Jim McGuinness said he was satisfied with the performance and the result as he continues to prepare for a league campaign in Division Two.

“The bottom line is we came here to get a good workout and we got that and we got the result,” he said. “That’s a big positive for me looking forward to the next couple of weeks.

“We’ve four or five men coming back into the fray again, men who haven’t been in the jersey in a while.”

Armagh were poor early on but they grew in confidence and fired over four points in five minutes before the break.

Six different Armagh players got on the scoresheet in the opening half, with Tasker, MacIomhair and Shields all scoring from play in that late flurry.

Donegal struggled around the middle and Eugene McVerry’s point put Armagh five points ahead in the 51st minute.

Gary McFadden intercepted a poor pass in the Armagh defence for a much-needed Donegal point before McFadden’s goal changed the game.

Armagh were rocked by a serious-looking knee injury to Kieran Toner, who was stretchered off after being injured in the build-up to McFadden’s goal. Finian Moriarty also limped off with a knee injury.

However Robbie Tasker kicked 0-3 from play while Ethan Rafferty, Oisin MacIomhair and particularly Mark Shields delivered high quality performances for Armagh.

“It shows you that the gap is not as big as some would say,” said Armagh boss Paul Grimley. “I was proud of the way we played, I can’t fault them”
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; A Mallon, C Vernon, F Moriarty; M Shields (0-1), K Toner, C Rafferty; E Rafferty (0-2, 0-1 45), J Lavery; O Mac Iomhair (0-1), K O’Rourke, S Campbell (0-2); R Tasker (0-3), S Forker (0-1, free), N McConville. Subs: E McVerry (0-1) for O’Rourke (28 mins), M McKenna for MacIomhair (45 mins), P Hughes for Moriarty (57 mins), J Clarke for Forker (60 mins), C McCooey for Toner (65 mins).
DONEGAL: M Boyle; Declan Walsh, E McGee, E Doherty; F McGlynn, L McLoone, K Lacey; M Smyth, R Kavanagh; O MacNiallais (0-2), D Molloy, T McKinley; C McFadden (1-1, 0-1 free), M Murphy (0-4, 0-2 frees), D O’Connor (0-1). Subs: N McGee for Doherty (half-time), David Walsh (0-1) for Molloy (half-time), L Thompson for McKinley (half-time), N Gallagher for Smyth (48 mins), G McFadden (0-1) for Kavanagh (55 mins), S McLaughlin for O’Connor (63 mins).
Referee: Eamon McHugh (Tyrone)