Returning Murphy turns tide as Donegal get back to winning ways
Donegal 1-9 Armagh 0-11
Kieran McGeeney watched, soaking and shaking, from a rooftop perch as Michael Murphy robbed the Orchard last night. The Donegal captain, making his first appearance of 2019, inspired his side's return to winning ways as he hit 1-2 off the bench.
As sheets of rain lashed down, Donegal made a telling breakthrough in added time at the end of the first half as Murphy got on the end of a sweeping move. Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Bán Gallagher, Hughie McFadden and Michael Langan were all involved, and when it arrived into the danger zone, Murphy was on hand to tuck low past Blaine Hughes.
Murphy was held in reserve but with Donegal struggling for a focal point in their attack, Declan Bonner called on his captain and his impact gave the hosts a 1-4 to 0-6 lead at the end of a sometimes chaotic first half.
Donegal's Jason McGee and Armagh's James Morgan were sent off for their parts in an 18th-minute fracas. Niall Grimley could count himself fortunate not to have been handed a similar reprimand following an earlier incident with Gallagher. Stefan Campbell was lucky, too, to have escaped without sanction for a high challenge on McHugh.
Grimley landed two huge scores to put Armagh ahead, but Murphy's introduction turned the tide. So fierce was the gale that howled, the posts swayed to such an extent they were practically taunting the participants at times. Langan, having dropped an early attempt short from distance, tucked over a 20-metre free to get the hosts off the mark in the 10th minute and a replica drew Donegal level.
Jamie Clarke got out in front of Gallagher to swing over from Campbell's arrowed ball in before Rian O'Neill doubled the lead after Clarke was fouled off the ball by Stephen McMenamin.
After the break, O'Neill slammed over to break Armagh's second-half duck in the 49th minute, when a pass to the better-placed Clarke might've been a better option. Langan landed his fifth free of the night before Murphy arched over from distance. When Murphy's slaloming run and fine finish put four between them, Donegal had some breathing space at last.
McGeeney watched from the roof of the press box as he serves a touchline suspension and he saw his side push Donegal to the pin of their collar. O'Neill scooped over twice and Ethan Rafferty, with the game's final kick, had a chance to steal the win, but his free, aimed at goal, was too high.
After defeats to Tipperary and Fermanagh in their last two outings, Donegal are back to winning ways, powered here by 2012 All-Ireland winners Murphy and Leo McLoone.
Sunday Indo Sport