Donegal toy with Armagh on route to facile victory on enemy ground
Published 14/06/2015 | 15:52
Donegal delivered one of their most controlled performances of their recent glorious spell as they cruised into an Ulster semi-final at the Athletic Grounds.
Armagh could scarcely lay a glove on a Michael Murphy-inspired visiting team who built an early platform and protected it with ease.
Goals in either half from Paddy McBrearty and Martin O'Reilly gave them a safe passage through this quarter-final.
"It was a good first half performance, we started the game really well and we got the goal from our first attack which is a great platform and probably shell-shocked Armagh a wee bit," Rory Gallagher told BBC Northern Ireland after the match.
"Really pleased with how we played the first half, I think the heat took a lot out of us and the second half was played at a more pedestrian pace.
"Tactics get over-hyped, it's about good players playing well and we feel we have a lot of quality players and they produced it today."
The first half was a as close to perfection as Donegal, who were without 'flu victim Colm McFadden, have enjoyed in five-years as Ulster's top team.
Kieran McGeeney's fears that Armagh had picked up bad habits during a Division Three campaign were well founded.
They made basic errors with misplaced passes too easily read and intercepted by hardened and experienced Donegal defenders.
The McGee brothers, Neil and Eamonn, barely had to break sweat with a wall in front of them that included Murphy who, with Karl Lacey and Ryan McHugh, controlled the game so effectively.
Their aerial bombardment of Armagh's last line of defence reaped early dividends with Neil Gallagher's delivery dropping nicely for McBrearty who had his initial effort blocked at close range by Matthew McNiece but nudged in the rebound for a decisive lead.
It rattled Armagh. They lost four of their own first five kick-outs and Donegal piled on the pressure.
By the 12th minute the champions led by 1-3 to 0-0, their grip on the game almost suffocating for the home side.
Murphy's free-taking off the ground was sublime, four from five including three magnificent long range efforts, each between 46 and 55 metres, helping them to a 1-9 to 0-2 interval lead.
At that point there was nothing left for Armagh to salvage but their pride.
Jamie Clarke struck a post after a scintillating run just after the restart and Stefan Campbell hit the sidenetting from the rebound but with Ryan and Mark McHugh and Lacey repepatdly shoring up the defence they had precious few clearcut opportunities.
O'Reilly's goal came courtesy of a Murphy run and offload to Frank McGlynn in the 44th minute.
Aramgh's Aaron Findon was black-carded late on as Donegal ran down the clock.
Donegal meet Derry in an Ulster semi-final while Armagh face the losers of Meath and Wicklow in the first round qualifiers.
Scorers - Donegal: M Murphy 0-5 (5fs), P McBrearty 1-1, M O'Reilly 1-0, O MacNaillais 0-2, N Gallagher, M McElhinney, N Gallagher 0-1 each.
Armagh: T Kernan 0-3 (1f), J Morgan, C McKeever, E Rafferty (f), A Findon, C Rafferty all 0-1 each.
Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; F McGlynn, K Lacey, R McHugh; N Gallagher, O MacNiallais; C Toye, M McElhinney, M McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, M O'Reilly. Subs: A Thompson for E McGee (ht),H McFadden for McBrearty (52), D Walsh for Toye (57), G McFadden for McElhinney (68), E Doherty for O'Reilly (70).
Armagh: M McNiece; F Moriarty, C Vernon, J Morgan; A Mallon, C McKeever, C Rafferty; A Findon, E Rafferty; T Kernan, M McKenna, A Forker; J Clarke, A Murnin, S Campbell. Subs: M Murray for McKenna (30), K Dyas for Moriarty (31), C O'Hanlon for E Rafferty (52),B Donaghy for Forker (57), E McVerry for Murnin (68), S Harold for Findon BC (70).