Donegal leave it late to book semi-final spot
DONEGAL marched into the All-Ireland semi-finals after an excruciatingly narrow victory for Jim McGuinness’ team.
DONEGAL 1-12 ARMAGH 1-11
They were hugely wasteful with chances, particularly in the second half, but pulled through thanks to late points by Michael Murphy and Paddy McBrearty after the sides were level at 1-10 each with ten minutes to go.
Armagh’s goal on the 60-minute mark by Stefan Campbell put the Orchard County right in the mix just when they needed it.
Donegal had a three-point lead at that stage, but the next ten minutes proved to be a battle of nerves and a huge struggle for the edge that would win the game.
Tony Kernan, who had a fine game, was unfortunate when he had a chance to carve out a draw in the dying minutes.
First he hit a free wide, and then dropped the ball just short where it was grabbed by Neil McGee and the referee blew the final whistle.
A predictably cautious opening with both sides getting 12 and 13 men behind the ball when the opposition had possession set the tone for the expected tactical battle.
Michael Murphy opened the scoring after three minutes with a point from a free for Donegal. Just over four minutes later, Tony Kernan replied for Armagh.
Aaron Kernan put Armagh ahead from a free on 13 minutes, but prior to that score, an almost inevitable melee broke out, with some of the Donegal backroom team getting involved as Karl Lacey was being manhandled by two opponents and the Donegal team doctor was pushed to the ground.
When this messy, unbecoming bout of handbags ended, referee Joe McQuillan booked only one player - Armagh’s Aaron Findon.
Just when the Orchard County seemed to be getting on top, Donegal worked a nice passing move that opened the way for Odhran MacNiallais to score a vital goal for his team after 22 minutes.
Armagh’s first half tally was spread between six players, all of the scores from play bar Aaron Kernan’s point from a free. Tony Kernan, Aidan Forker, Stefan Campbell, Andy Mallon and Kyle Carragher were the other marksmen for Armagh.
Half time score: Donegal 1-5; Armagh 0-6
That first-half goal for Donegal proved important as Tony Kernan (3), and Aaron Kernan brought Armagh to 0-10 after 59 minutes.
Colm McFadden (2), Paddy McBrearty and Michael Murphy from a free gave Donegal some breathing space until that late Stefan Cambell goal set up a stirring finish to the game.
Scorers: Donegal: M Murphy 0-5 (4f); O MacNiallais 1-1; C McFadden 0-3 (2f); P McBrearty 0-2; N McGee 0-1
Armagh: T Kernan 0-4 (2f); S Campbell 1-1; A Kernan 0-2 (1f); A Forker 0-1; A Mallon 0-1; K Carragher 0-1; M Murray 0-1
Donegal: P Durcan; E McGee, N McGee, F McGlynn; A Thompson, K Lacey, P McGrath; N Gallagher, O MacNiallais; C Toye, L McLoone, R McHugh; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.
Subs: R Kavanagh for C Toye (42); M McElhinney for L McLoone (56); D O’Connor for C McFadden (58); M O’Reilly for P McBrearty (72)
Armagh: P McEvoy; F Moriarty, C Vernon, A Mallon; M Shields, B Donaghy, A Kernan; S Harold, A Findon; A Forker, K Dyas, T Kernan; K Carragher, S Campbell, J Clarke.
Subs: B Mallon for K Carragher (41); E Rafferty for A Findon (45); R Grugan for K Dyas (55);
M Murray for A Forker (58); K Toner for S Harold (65).
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)