Greg McCabe, Armagh, is tackled by Donegal's Conor O'Donnell and Dáire Ó Baoill. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Greg McCabe, Armagh, is tackled by Donegal's Conor O'Donnell and Dáire Ó Baoill. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Allianz FL D1: Armagh defeat Donegal

Allianz Football League Division One

Armagh 0-13 Donegal 0-10

By Steven Malone at BOX-IT Athletic Grounds

Armagh survived a late Donegal rally to claim vital league points, It was an entertaining finish as Donegal posed stern questions in the closing stages.

The victory pulls the Orchard out of the relegation zone, but defeat leaves Donegal needing positive results from their next two games.

Played in front of 12,582, huge crowds waited for the gates to open at the Box-IT Athletic Grounds for a game between bitter rivals of late, it was more measured football in the first half but it grew into blood and thunder stuff by the finish.

Armagh were full value for their four-point lead at the break. It was a disciplined performance from the Orchard side in this must win encounter against relegation threatened Donegal.

Both goalkeepers were first to score for their teams, Donegal’s Shaun Patton was first up, with a converted 45’, while the impressive Ethan Rafferty replied with his free.

It was techy, tense and patience was tested, but as Donegal attacked in waves, they were met by orange walls who made several great turnovers.

Aidan Forker steered Armagh ahead with great point and he was provider for Andrew Murnin’s converted mark. Rian O’Neill (free) gave the Orchard a 0-04 to 0-01 lead with 20 minutes played.

Donegal’s Conor O’Donnell took advantage of a rare gap in the Armagh defence and popped over an encouraging point but at the other end Stefan Campbell displayed a touch of class as he jinked left, then right before grabbing a point.

Armagh were starting to stretch the Donegal rear-guard and Greg McCabe was fouled to tee-up O’Neill up for his second conversion. Oisin Gallen’s reply was much-needed to halve Armagh’s lead but with two additional minutes almost up, Murnin punched over his second point from Rafferty’s free, to give Kieran McGeeney’s men a healthy lead at the interval, 0-7 to 0-3.

Donegal showed much more intensity and purpose with substitute Hugh McFadden leading the attack. He and Gallen, both frees, cut into Armagh’s lead but Rian O’Neill and Patton traded frees and when McFadden bagged his second point only the minimum separated the sides.

Both sides exerted a lot of energy and squandered chances but Armagh’s next score was on the hoof as Ciaran Mackin kicked long to O’Neill, he aimed for the posts and Murnin rose to punch over his third point.

Substitute Rory Grugan converted a free to extend Armagh’s lead to three points with an hour played and O’Neill’s 45’ restored the half-time lead.

Armagh should have put the game beyond doubt as substitute McQuillan and Murnin had only keeper Patton to beat but they fluffed their chance and Donegal punished with a flurry of points from Ciaran Thompson, Jamie Brennan and midfielder Jason O’Neill to leave only a point between the sides and four frantic additional minutes.

It was frenzy football now as the magnificent Jarly Óg Burns was hauled down at the edge of the square, the brilliant O’Neill converted his fourth of the even and Burns followed up with a cracking point.

There is a break in the National Football League next weekend but Donegal face a big challenge to turn their Division One fortunes around when they face Mayo on Sunday, March 19, in Ballybofey at 3.45pm.

Armagh can get a grip of divisional safety if they overcome Galway in the Box IT Athletic Grounds on Saturday, March 18, at 5pm.

Scorers for Armagh: Rian O'Neill 0-5 (4fs, 145), Andrew Murnin 0-3 (1m), Aidan Forker, Jarly Óg Burns, Stefan Campbell, Ethan Rafferty (f), and Rory Grugan (f) 0-1 each.

Scorers for Donegal: Oisin Gallen (1f), Hugh McFadden (1m), and Shaun Patton (2fs) 0-2 each, Conor O'Donnell, Ciaran Thompson, Jason McGee, and Jamie Brennan 0-1 each.

Armagh: Ethan Rafferty, Barry McCambridge, Aidan Forker, Paddy Burns, Aaron McKay, Greg McCabe, Joe McElroy, Ciaran Mackin, Jarly Og Burns, Jason Duffy, Callum Cumiskey, Stefan Campbell, Rian O’Neill, Andrew Murnin, Conor Turbitt.

Subs: Tiernan Kelly for Duffy (56’), Rory Grugan for Turbitt (58’), Ross McQuillan for Campbell (60’), Kieran Tobin for Gallagher (66’), Niall Grimley for Cumiskey (70’).

Donegal: Shaun Patton, Mark Curran, Brendan McCole, Peadar Mogan, Caolan McColgan, Stephen McMenamin, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Caolan McGonagle, Jason McGee, Michael Langan, Daire O’Baoill, Conor O’Donnell, Caolan Ward, Oisin Gallen, Jamie Brennan.

Subs : Hugh McFadden for Ward (34’), Ciaran Thompson for McColgan (47’), Rory O’Donnell for Gallen (61’).

Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo).