A history of Armagh v Donegal’s Clones clashes

Compiled by Brendan McCann

Their initial meeting in Clones was in a replay of the 1952 Dr Lagan Cup final, then the Northern qualifying section for the National League. The counties had been impossible to separate the previous week in Ballybofey, even after half an hour of extra time.

Armagh commenced the replay with a new midfield partnership, with Dan Murphy partnering Bill McCorry. It would prove to be an eventful afternoon for the latter, scoring a penalty to put the Orchard County ahead early on, before retiring with a facial injury.

Tom Wickham and Paddy Coyle turned the game in Donegal’s favour before the break. Tir Chonaill went on to record a decisive 2-6 to 1-4 victory. Armagh and Donegal did not meet in Clones in the USFC until the counties qualified for the 1990 decider. It was a game where Donegal played attractive football without shaking off the Armagh challenge.

Manus Boyle (0-5), Declan Bonner (0-3) and Martin McHugh (0-3) led the way for Donegal, who held a two-point lead at the break. Shane Skelton proved an inspirational substitute for the men in orange, registering three second half points.

He was assisted in the scoring charts by Ollie Reel (0-4) and two points apiece for Gerard Houlihan and Kieran McGurk. Armagh’s challenge fell short by the narrowest of margins, as Donegal led at the final whistle by 0-15 to 0-14.

99 double meeting

It was the drama of a replay all over again when the counites were drawn in the Quarter-Final stage of the 1999 USFC.  On the 6th of June at Ballybofey, Tony Boyle and John Duffy goaled early on, as Donegal found themselves seven points clear in the early minutes.

But this was an Armagh side with a steely determination, and they chipped away at the lead throughout the remainder of this pulsating tie. Paddy McKeever registered a crucial goal to force a draw which saw the sides visit Clones the following week.

Donegal started stronger in the replay, amassing a four-point lead close to the break, against a fourteen men Armagh team, after the dismissal of Oisin McConville.

Their initial meeting in Clones was in a replay of the 1952 Dr Lagan Cup final, then the Northern qualifying section for the National League.

Armagh provided an inspirational second half display, with goals from Cathal O’Rourke and Diarmaid Marsden critical in a 2-11 to 0-12 success, which provided the foundation for the county’s first provincial success since 1982. 

Three years later, the counties crossed swords in their second-ever USFC final, where John McEntee had the Clones scorekeepers busy marking up a goal in the second minute.

That proved the score that separated the teams at the turnaround before a Jim McGuinness goal brought Donegal within two points of the Orchard County.

McGuinness v McGeeney

In a game where Donegal registered 14 wides, the Armagh forward pairing of Ronan Clarke and Steven McDonnell found the target with late points to steer their county to success, enroute to capturing Sam Maguire a few short months later.

In 2005, thousands of supporters from each county descended upon the town on successive weekends in the month of May. When Kevin Cassidy received his marching orders after 28 minutes of the first game 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, at which juncture, Paddy McKeever also saw a red card flashed in his direction.

Their initial meeting in Clones was in a replay of the 1952 Dr Lagan Cup final, then the Northern qualifying section for the National League.
Photo Credit: John Merry

Paul McGrane and Aaron Kernan breathed new air into the Orchard challenge, levelling the game, before Christy Toye seemed to have secured a semi-final berth for himself and his teammates. But Oisin McConville had the last word, ensuring 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 at the same venue. A Ronan Clarke goal had Armagh five clear at the break but a Steven McDonnell goal early in the second period and further major for Malachy Mackin, against the backdrop of four sending’s-off, including three for Donegal, who lost Brian Roper, Eamon McGee and latterly Adrian Sweeney in 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.

Clones Clash

The most recent Clones meeting was in the All-Ireland Qualifiers against Donegal in 2022. A fantastic first half blossomed into life when Rian O’Neill collected the throw-in, launching a long ball into Rory Grugan who delightfully smashed the ball to the net after ten seconds.

Donegal responded accordingly with nine of the next eleven scores to lead 0-9 to 1-2 after 21 minutes. Armagh edged their way back level before Shaun Patton hauled down Aidan Nugent, receiving a black card.

O’Neill’s penalty proved a catalyst to give the Orchard County a lead on the day they would never lose. Ahead by 2-8 to 0-9 at the turnaround, Stephen Sheridan added further panache to the score line with a 58th minute major score.