Ben Crealey, Armagh, and Jason McGee, Donegal, collide at St Tiernach's Park.
Ben Crealey, Armagh, and Jason McGee, Donegal, collide at St Tiernach's Park.

All Ireland SFC R2: Impressive Armagh advance

All Ireland SFC Round Two

Armagh 3-17 Donegal 0-16

By Declan Bogue at St Tiernach's Park

One of the quickest ever goals in Championship football came after nine seconds here, when Armagh’s Rian O’Neill caught the throw-in and let fly with a delivery into the square.

Rory Grugan caught it clean and lashed it to the net, setting this game on fire instantly.

One of the big questions Armagh had to answer was how they would deal with Ethan Rafferty being forced to go long with his kickouts.

At the opposite end of the field Donegal were encountering problems. After losing two kickouts in the middle of the pitch, resulting in points for a Rian O’Neill free and Jarlath Óg Burns, he wanted to go short.

Shaun Patton clipped one to Odhran McFadden-Ferry but Jason Duffy was alive to it and handpassed to Stefan Campbell. His point-blank range shot was scrambled off the line by Caolan Ward and O’Neill converted the resulting ’45 to level the scores, 1-6 to 0-9.

Undeterred, Patton tried the next one short to Brendan McCole, but’Neill and Grugan combined to ship it to Aidan Nugent who was taken down by the Donegal netminder.

Referee Brendan Cawley gave Patton a black card and Armagh the penalty. Rian O’Neill crashed it into the corner beyond stand-in goalkeeper Caolan McGonagle

They quickly added two more from Grugan and Jason Duffy and went in at the break 2-8 to 0-10 up.

As much as Donegal looked like they were up for the fight, they never showed up for the second half as they were outscored by 1-9 to 0-6. Even when Donegal started winning two Armagh kickouts in a row, the final goal came as the ultimate coffin nail.

Jarlath Óg Burns made a relieving catch from a Rafferty kickout and it was worked through O’Neill and Ben Crealey to put midfielder Stephen Sheridan clear to clip home at the near post and leave them in the hat for the All-Ireland quarter final.

It was Burns who actually got the first score of the second half, an area that Armagh assistant coach Kieran Donaghy said afterwards they were targeting, when he came off the wing to make straight for the middle and float over a point.

A five point lead at this point felt like fifteen to Donegal. After an opening 10 minutes in which they hit six unanswered points to answer Armagh’s opening goal, they appeared to have thrown all their punches and the energy seeped from their key players as frustration mounted.

Whatever about them, Armagh are once more heading back to Croke Park with a team their public believe in.

Scorers for Armagh: R O’Neill (1-7, 1-0 Pen, 2 frees, 1x’45), R Grugan (1-3, 1 free), J Óg Burns (0-3), S Sheridan (1-0), C Turbitt (0-2), S Campbell, J Duffy (0-1 each)

Scorers for Donegal: M Murphy (0-6, 0-5 frees), S O’Donnell (0-4), A Doherty, R McHugh, J McGee, C Thompson, P McBrearty, N O’Donnell (0-1 each).

ARMAGH: E Rafferty; J Morgan, A Forker, A McKay; C Mackin, G McCabe, J Óg Burns; S Sheridan, B Crealey; R Grugan, S Campbell, A Murnin; A Nugent, R O’Neill, J Duffy

Subs: C Turbitt for Murnin (57 mins), J Hall for Sheridan (64 mins), M Sheilds for Nugent (66 mins), C Higgins for Duffy (71 mins), J Kieran for C O’Neill (74 mins).

DONEGAL: S Patton; C Ward, B McCole, A Doherty; R McHugh, EB Gallagher, O McFadden-Ferry; C McGonagle, J McGee; C Thompson, P Mogan, M Langan; P McBrearty, M Murphy, S O’Donnell.

Subs: M Lynch for McBrearty (30 mins), Patton for Lynch (37 mins), J Brennan for Thompson (46 mins), C O’Donnell for Ward (58 mins), N O’Donnell for Langan, J McKelvey for McHugh (both 64 mins).

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).