Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Donegal, and Jemar Hall, Armagh, in Ulster Senior Football Championship action.
Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Donegal, and Jemar Hall, Armagh, in Ulster Senior Football Championship action.

Ulster SFC: Impressive Donegal advance

Ulster Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final

Donegal 1-16 Armagh 0-12

By Chris McNulty at Páirc Sean MacCumhaill

Patrick McBrearty netted the 47th minute goal as Donegal marched past Armagh to the Ulster SFC semi-finals.

It was rather more straightforward than Donegal might have expected in front of 13,689 in Ballybofey.

It was solid if not spectacular from Declan Bonner’s men, who booked a place against Cavan in two weeks’ time.

McBrearty’s goal was the coup de grace from Donegal - effectively extinguishing Armagh’s chances - and their season promises more on the evidence of this.

Shane O’Donnell, making his first SFC appearance, and Jason McGee were involved in the move. McBrearty offloaded to Caolan Ward and was on hand to bat the return pass to the Town End net.

McBrearty’s goal stretched Donegal’s lead out to seven, 1-10 to 0-6.

The Ballybofey breeze had a bite about it that was a reminder of the early beginning to the provincial show. Overhead, the sun came out to play along with the Championship feel.

Donegal led by three (0-9 to 0-6) at half-time and might well have been further in front. Armagh struggled with their own kick-outs in the opening half, Donegal winning eight of the 14 Orchard re-starts.

Aidan Nugent, a half-time replacement, almost made an instant impact. His ball into the mixer was superbly fetched by Rian O’Neill, but a free out was awarded amid a scramble in the Donegal goalmouth.

Nugent saw a rasping drive repelled by Shaun Patton at the near post and Rory Grugan fired wide having won a mark as Armagh sought about hauling themselves back into it.

Kieran McGeeney, the Armagh manager was able to call on Nugent, O’Neill and Stefan Campbell, the trio having had recent suspensions quashed in the wake of the League meeting of the sides last month. Donegal opted not to appeal the bans handed down to Odhrán McFadden-Ferry and Neil McGee. Victory in their absence will add weight to their optimism for the road ahead.

When McBrearty steered home, only a capitulation would’ve altered the outcome here.

Conor Turbitt, a late inclusion on the Armagh side, scuttled his way past Stephen McMenamin to arrow over in the 12th minute to put them in front for the first time and there were fleeting moments when Armagh seemed as if they might upset the odds.

Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Murphy and McGee posted the early points as Donegal led 0-3 to 0-1 by the seventh minute.

The pace of it dipped and Armagh hit three points in as many minutes to take command for a period.

Murphy deliciously stoked over a free from 47 metres to lift the home voices.

From long range, Murphy restored Donegal’s lead in the 25th minute and the hosts were 0-9 to 0-6 in front when they headed down the tunnel at the interval.

A Grugan free was the sole addition to Armagh’s tally in the last 15 minutes of the opening chapter.

A Patrick McBrearty free and a Ciaran Thompson point in added time meant that Donegal were good value for a three-point lead at the changeover.

Five points was as close as Armagh came and Donegal could have added another goal, but Langan riffled over the top three minutes from the end.

Scorers for Donegal:Michael Murphy 0-6 (4fs), Patrick McBrearty 1-2 (1f), Michael Langan 0-3, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Jason McGee, Ciaran Thompson, Shane O’Donnell, Conor O’Donnell 0-1 each.

Scorers for Armagh: Rory Grugan 0-5 (3fs), Jarly Óg Burns, Tiernan Kelly, Oisin O’Neill, Ben Crealey, Stefan Campbell, Conor Turbitt, Greg McCabe 0-1 each.

Donegal: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Brendan McCole, Stephen McMenamin; Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Peadar Mogan; Hugh McFadden, Jason McGee; Ciaran Thompson, Shane O’Donnell, Michael Langan; Patrick McBrearty, Michael Murphy, Jamie Brennan.

Subs: Caolan McGonagle for McGee (51), Conor O’Donnell for Thompson (54), Niall O’Donnell for McFadden (61), Paul Brennan for S.O’Donnell (68), Aaron Doherty for Brennan (70+3).

Armagh: Ethan Rafferty; James Morgan, Aidan Forker, Aaron McKay; Niall Grimley, Greg McCabe, Jarly Óg Burns; Connaire Mackin, Ben Crealey; Jemar Hall, Rory Grugan, Tiernan Kelly; Conor Turbitt, Rian O’Neill, Jason Duffy.

Subs: Aidan Nugent for Duffy (half-time), Stefan Campbell for Hall (47), Oisin O’Neill for Mackin (50), Ross McQuillan for Forker (62).

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).