Armagh take on Donegal tomorrow in St Tiernach’s Park Clones. Brendan McCann takes a look at some of the recent clashes in the Monaghan town.
This season has already provided many talking points for Armagh and Donegal. Few would have imagined after the recent clashes that a mouth-watering third instalment would be on the horizon. The 30th Senior Football Championship meeting between the sides.
Their initial meeting in Clones was in a replay of the Dr Lagan Cup final, the Northern qualifying section for the National League. The counties had been impossible to separate the previous weekend in Ballybofey, even after half an hour of extra time. Armagh commenced the replay with a new midfield partnership of Dan Murphy and Bill McCorry.
It would prove to be an eventful afternoon for the latter. McCorry scores an early penalty before retiring with a facial injury. Tom Wickham and Paddy Coyle turned the game for Donegal’s and they went on to record a 2-6 to 1-4 victory.
Armagh and Donegal did not meet in Clones in the USFC until the 1990 decider. Manus Boyle (0-5), Declan Bonner (0-3) and Martin McHugh (0-3) led the way for Donegal.
Shane Skelton proved an inspirational substitute for Armagh, registering three second half points. Ollie Reel (0-4) and two points apiece for Gerard Houlihan and Kieran McGurk followed. Their challenge fell short by the narrowest of margins, as Donegal led at the final whistle by 0-15 to 0-14.
After drawing in Ballybofey the sides met in Clones. Donegal started stronger, amassing a four-point lead close to the break, against a fourteen men Armagh team, after the dismissal of Oisin McConville.
Armagh provided an inspirational second half display, with goals from Cathal O’Rourke and Diarmaid Marsden critical in the 2-11 to 0-12 success, which provided the foundation for the county’s first provincial success since 1982.
The counties crossed swords in their second-ever USFC final, where John McEntee scored a goal in the second minute. A Jim McGuinness goal brought Donegal within two points of the Orchard County.
The forward pairing of Ronan Clarke (2) and Steven McDonnell found the target with late points to steer their county to success, en route to capturing Sam Maguire a few short months later.
When Kevin Cassidy received his marching orders after 28 minutes, with Armagh three points to the good, it seemed that his sides luck might be out. An inspired Donegal though took the game by the scruff of the neck, leading by two entering the last ten minutes.
Paddy McKeever also red carded before Oisin McConville had the last word. He ensured a second bite of the cherry for the defending provincial champions, with the teams scoring 12 points each.
An explosive rematch was in store seven days later. A Ronan Clarke goal had Armagh five clear at the break with further majors from Steven McDonnell and Malachy Mackin following.
Four players saw the line with Brian Roper, Eamon McGee and Adrian Sweeney, for an incident which Francie Bellew also was directed towards the line. Despite the best efforts of Brendan Devenney, who ended up registering 1-4, Armagh romped home by 3-11 to 1-10.