Donegal draw places Armagh in play-offs

Armagh 1-16 Donegal 1-16

Who would have thought after these sides last meeting that Armagh fans would be so disappointed with a draw against Donegal?

The Tir Chonaill men were 12 points the better team last November but that was a distant memory by the 55th minute mark on Saturday evening.

Tiernan Kelly had just rolled the ball underneath the diving Shaun Patton to hand his team a four-point advantage and division one looked secured for another season.

Donegal are still a top contender however and they showed serious patience and knowhow to finally get back on level terms.

And when they did, they played keep ball as a draw was all they needed to guarantee their place in the semi-finals.

Photo Credit: John Merry

While Armagh may have let that lead slip, one huge positive from the outing is that Donegal never once got ahead.

Paddy McBrearty, who was outstanding throughout, levelled for his side in the early moments after Rory Grugan swung over the opener.

Armagh then led from the 5th to the 72nd minute, opening up a five-point gap straight from the second half restart.

They shot 6-1 in front with the electrifying Stefan Campbell heading the charge, scoring three, assisting James Morgan’s fisted effort and winning a free for Grugan to slot over.

The Orchard County had set up an orange and white wall at the other end that Donegal continuously struggled to break down.

Photo Credit: John Merry

They did however find a purple patch after the first water break, with three unanswered points by Ryan McHugh, Michael Langan and Niall O’Donnell.

Armagh finished the half stronger with five of the last seven scores, the final one an absolute monster effort from Oisin O’Neill, who was all of 55 yards from the target.

The Crossmaglen mans second point gave Armagh a four-point cushion at the break, which stretched to five immediately after the restart with Ciaron O’Hanlon speeding through for a score.

Just when it looked like they could relax, Michael Langan highlighted some of the defensive frailties in the home sides rear-guard.

The rangy wing-half-forward carried the ball from the middle of the field, the whole way through the Armagh defence, and rattled the ball into the roof of the net.

Photo Credit: John Merry

Donegal continued to chip away at the gap and second half substitute Conor O’Donnell knocked over a score to leave one the difference.

The came Kelly’s goal following sharp hands from Conor Turbitt and Campbell and the hosts could breathe once again.

McBrearty was a real throne in the Orchard County’s side and the Kilcar man rallied his troops with two impressive scores.

Niall O’Donnell finally got Donegal back on level terms and the Armagh legs were weak by this stage, in the energy sapping sunlight.

Photo Credit: John Merry

While a win was well within their grasps, Geezer’s side have demonstrated they can not only live with Division One opposition, but they can match them!

Plenty of times Donegal had no answer to Armagh’s quality, and Kieran McGeeney will still be confident that his side will remain in the top tier for 2022.

Armagh Team: Blaine Hughes, Ross Finn, James Morgan 0-1, Greg McCabe, Connaire Mackin, Aaron McKay, Ciaron O’Hanlon 0-1, Niall Grimley, Jarly Og Burns, Jemar Hall 0-1, Rian O’Neill 0-1 (f), Ross McQuillan 0-1, Rory Grugan 0-3 (3f), Oisin O’Neill 0-3, Stefan Campbell 0-4. Subs: Conor Turbitt for J. Morgan, Tiernan Kelly 1-1 for R. McQuillan, Paul Hughes for R. Finn, Andrew Murnin for J. Og Burns, Jack Grugan for O. O’Neill.